Canadian Doctors May Prescribe Walks in the Park for Your Health

new program allows doctors to prescribe visits to national parks

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

North America’s national parks are truly sights to behold. From Yosemite to the Sierra Nevada, they inspire and awe visitors from the world over. Now, in Canada, they’re the most affordable prescription.

Looking Out Over a Lake Surrounded by Forest in Autumn - Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Doctors embracing the new national parks pass prescription program are encouraged to prioritize patients whose limited income might otherwise prevent them from accessing these restorative spaces. Photo by Brian Lasenby / Shutterstock

Canadian doctors now have the option to prescribe annual passes for national parks, allowing their patients to access them for free. The health initiative, called PaRx, enables doctors to write prescriptions that encourage their patients to explore Canada’s parks, in light of increasing evidence that access to nature has health benefits. While it’s long been said that nature and fresh air are good for the body, prescribing visits to national parks is a newer phenomenon.

North America’s national parks range from coast to coast. Many of them are in the United States, but Canada’s parks shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Before his unfortunate passing, Fred Cochran, Director of Programming for National Geographic Expeditions, hosted the video series Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America, in which he discusses the Canadian Shield and its many wonders.

The Canadian Shield

The Canadian Shield is the largest exposed portion of the North American craton. A craton is a large and stable mass of the Earth’s crust that forms a continent’s nucleus. Included within is the Adirondack Uplift.

“Another feature, so large it can be seen from space, appeared only by chance on the Canadian Shield, and reminds us that not all of Earth’s geology is caused by Earth itself,” Cochran said. “Quebec has a depressed ring 40 miles across that has been flooded by a dam to form Lake Manicougan. Within sits René Levasseur Island and Mount Babel, the topographic bullseye reflecting a geological catastrophe that occurred in the blink of an eye.”

According to Cochran, an asteroid believed to be three miles in diameter struck this exposed craton and produced the impact structure of which he spoke. He said it’s the planet’s largest currently visible impact crater, and one of the continent’s “most striking and bizarre features.”

The entire Canadian Shield Natural Region of Alberta lies within the Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality. Wood Buffalo National Park is the largest national park in the nation.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily