A hike a day keeps the doctor away.
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A couple of visitors walking in a burned forest near Blakiston Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Credit: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Doctors in Canada are can now prescribe time in national parks for patients who are in need of a bit of nature.

Healthcare professionals in four Canadian provinces can now prescribe their patients passes to National Parks thanks to a new program, PaRX, which cites the health benefits of spending time in nature in helping to manage physical and mental health.

PaRx was founded by the B.C. Parks Foundation in November 2020 and was officially supported by Parks Canada last month, according to the CBC. Health professionals who register with the program can offer their patients a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, making it the country's "first national nature prescription program." The Parks Discovery Pass typically costs about $57 (72 CAD) per adult per year.

"We're really asking [doctors] to prioritize patients who live close to Parks Canada sites so they'll have more access and can make it part of their everyday lives, and also those for whom the cost of a pass might be a barrier to nature access," Melissa Lem, president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, told the CBC.

Citing the health benefits of being in nature, doctors are recommending spending at least two hours per week in the great outdoors, for at least 20 minutes at a time.

According to PaRx, benefits of spending a few hours per week in nature include a longer life expectancy, increased energy, reduced stress, better mood, pain reduction, and improved heart health.

The program is currently available in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. It will eventually expand to include every province and territory.

PaRx also has benefits outside of the national parks, with many gardens offering free admission to visitors who show their prescriptions.

"Rediscovering nature and then realizing how important it is to us has really underlined that nature-health connection," Lem said.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.