Medicina Natural

  To the body and mind which have bIMG_0044een cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. – Ralph Waldo Emerson This week, I got to thinking about all the outdoor activities I’ve had the opportunity to engage in over the past three weeks of my internship. I’ve been biking and hiking all over the towpath. Lately, I’ve been feeling better, lighter and more in love with life. Although I can’t be certain, I attribute these changes to my prolific outdoor enjoyment over the past few weeks. I reflected on how I’ve been feeling over the past few days and considered how outdoor usage might influence and improve communities. Non-communicable diseases such as heart attacks, diabetes, stroke, cancer etc. are the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. and globally.  Many times, these conditions disproportionately  affect the poor and marginalized who do not have access to prescribed healthy foods physical activity that is often recommended to prevent the onset of these illnesses? There has been an influx of communities attempting to bridge the gap of access to healthy food through community gardens, farmers markets, and food sharing initiatives. Similarly, communities have emphasized the use of green spaces as places to engage people in physical activity. Parks and trails are integral to improving health outcomes within communities.  There is a misconception that in order to get a good workout, it must be from inside a gym, with weights, and a redundant exercise plan. However, green spaces, such as National Parks, offer fantastic opportunities to exercise without the commitment to a costly gym plan or enduring the intimidating gym atmosphere. At C&O Canal, we provide a FREE bikIMG_9634e loaner program every weekend, where visitors can borrow a bicycle for two hours and experience the park in a different way. In cities like Baltimore, Washington DC, and San Antonio, there are “Fitness in The Park” programs that provide free group fitness classes or exercise equipment in an outdoor setting. These are concepts that should be adopted by every city in order to address health disparities.   The benefits of engaging in outdoor physical activity are not just physical, but can also have a positive impact on mental health. Studies have shown that the effects of outdoor or green exercise have a positive influence on reducing stress, improving mood, and decreasing the onset of depression, This phenomenon is becoming so revered, that a community of clinicians created Park Rx to encourage individuals and communities to use parks and public lands for the purpose of improving health and wellness. As a LHIP Intern and as an emerging public health professional, the concept of using green spaces as places where individuals and families can practice physical activity resonates deeply.  It is important as stewards of our communities that we advocate for healthy neighborhoods. Communities, where the built environment promotes wellness and residents have access to basic facilities such as safe sidewalks,  full supermarkets and, most of all, parks! If you’d like to read more about Park Rx the link is below.   Happy Summer!   Andrea      

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