Published on August 21, 2015

Isn’t it time to reconnect with nature?

Isn’t it time to reconnect with nature?

Doctors tell us that taking a walk is one of the best ways we can improve our health and outlook. Regular walks help us lose weight, reduce our blood pressure, improve digestion, and have a positive effect on those suffering from depression.

It sounds to me like a miracle drug offered on TV commercials, and it’s free!

That’s what piqued my interest to use the resources of the Cape Cod National Seashore to improve the health of all of our citizens, as well as to offer the benefits of our outdoor wonders.

You may be aware that more than a third of all American adults are battling obesity. And most of us know the negative long-term health effects: high blood pressure, diabetes and insufficient muscle tone, among others. Many young people are facing health issues and significant health care costs in their adult years.

I had to personally confront these frightening health issues, a result of my own weight gain and lack of physical activity. Fortunately, with the help of my physician, a nutritionist and my family, I have experienced great success, improved test results, and experiencing a substantial weight loss through diet and exercise.

And that’s what Healthy Park, Healthy People is all about.

The National Park Service developed the Healthy Parks campaign, joining a global movement that harnesses the power of parks and public lands to support a healthy society.

Parks across the country have teamed up with local physicians and other health care providers to spread the word. For us, it meant joining forces with Cape Cod Healthcare, which provides the doctors, nurses and support staff to put the “healthy” in the HPHP campaign.

We also had the good fortune to work with Professor Kathleen Drohan and her students from Johnson and Wales University, who helped to flesh out the concept for a trimester project.  The program also contains a veteran’s connection to encourage and invite them and their families to participate.

I am a fan of Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods (2005), which chronicles the demise of unstructured outdoor time for today’s children.  For many of us who vividly recall leaving the house on a summer day after breakfast and returning home after a full day of exploring the woods, streams and fields, this is a major lifestyle change.

The consequence is a loss of connection to nature.  Another Louv book, The Nature Principle (2011), takes this disconnection from nature a step further. He concludes that  it is detrimental to our mental and physical health.

Louv proposes a “new nature movement…where pediatricians and other health professionals prescribe nature; where park rangers become para-health professionals; where antidepressants and pharmaceuticals are prescribed less and nature prescribed more; where obesity of children and adults is reduced through nature play.”That’s what we’re doing with Healthy Parks, Healthy People. The program has developed beyond my expectations and is an exciting way to reach out and to our visitors, our residents and our employees just as we being our 2016 Centennial celebration of the National Park Service.

Nature beckons all of us. So what are you waiting for?

I’ll see you on the seashore.

About the Contributor: George Price is the superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The Cape Cod National seashore has a weekly schedule of special ranger-guided walks from the Province Lands of Provincetown to Nauset Light and Coast Guard beaches in Eastham.

[PHOTO: Kathy Tevyaw and George Price]