SPOKANE, Wash. — Doctors are now writing out prescriptions for nature, saying the great outdoors could help reduce the burden of chronic disease for some patients.

For years, doctors have urged patients to take walks in nature and get fresh air, but now they have found a new way to get patients to go outside.

It all started with Park Rx, a nonprofit dedicated to helping those with chronic disease.

According to Washington State Parks, which has partnered with Park Rx, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic disease and more than two thirds suffer from obesity – which can often lead to chronic disease.

Spending time in nature increases physical activity, which decreases the risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and mental health conditions.

Doctors are hoping patients will take the prescription for nature more seriously and actually put it into practice if it’s written down.

"Actually writing it down for people has been shown to make a difference in whether they do it or not rather than just saying, 'Hey you should go outside and you should get more exercise,'" said Dr. Dawn DeWitt with WSU Spokane's Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. "Just go outside and you get that feeling, you walk into a forest, walk next to a river, you walk in the trees and you just feel human again.”

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Through Park Rx, doctors can prescribe specific parks and other nature areas after talking with patients and finding out their interests.

If doctors would like to start prescribing nature to patients, they can register with Park Rx and watch a short video on how to prescribe nature in clinical settings on the Park Rx website.

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