By

Laura was previously the editorial assistant on Healthy Food Guide. She is now a freelance journalist specialising in health, wellbeing, food & travel.

A walk in the park could be just what the doctor ordered – literally – if a new call for green space prescriptions becomes a reality

Local authority adviser the Local Government Association is suggesting GP surgeries issue a new kind of prescription known as social prescribing. In practice, this means GPs would offer overweight patients prescriptions to get active outdoors or refer patients to regular walking groups to help tackle obesity. The idea has been piloted in several local authorities throughout the country, but if it gets a national go-ahead, we could see prescriptions listing not medicines, but exercise routines or access to national parks.

Why we need to get outdoors

The NHS is creaking under the weight of an obesity crisis. A whopping 62% of adults are overweight, and staying active, along with a healthy, balanced diet, is key to losing weight and reducing your risk of the obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Does it work?

Green prescriptions have been used successfully in New Zealand for 18 years. 72% of survey respondents said they noticed positive changes to their health, and 51% said they felt stronger and fitter. And, according to the British Medical Journal, green prescriptions can improve a patient’s quality of life over 12 months and help people live longer and healthier lives.

Read: how to check if you’re overweight

Steven Ward, executive director of ukactive says, ‘Britain is in the grip of a physical activity crisis and the great outdoors is a fantastic way of getting people moving again. Physical activity has been hailed as a miracle cure which can help treat and prevent more than 20 lifestyle-related diseases.’

If GPs were to prescribe movement with regular follow-ups, we could have a transformative effect on the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Now try these exercises for the great outdoors:
Urban hiking
Jogging
Cycling

Looking for fitness inspiration? Pick up our latest magazine, Get Fit With Healthy Food Guide. Click here to find out more.