If you see your doctor because you're feeling stressed, don't be surprised if you get a prescription to go take a hike.

Physicians are finding sneaky, drug-free ways of getting their patients to cheer up and get some exercise to boot: telling them to walk in the woods or on a beach or take in the sights at a local museum.

Instead of "Take two with plenty of water," some of these directions might be: "look for some long-tailed ducks," or "search for shells" according to The Guardian, which described a new pilot program from the U.K.'s National Health Service.

Since exercise is a mood booster, these outings are literally just what the doctor ordered.

It's not a new idea, however. In the '80s, the Japanese launched a national health program known as "forest bathing." In 2005, Richard Louv published a book called Last Child in the Woods, which cited 60 studies touting the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outside. In 2018, Louv's website lists more 700.

Washington, D.C. pediatrician Dr. Robert Zarr was inspired by Louv's book. Zarr started a nonprofit called Parks Rx America, which helps doctors prescribe trips to the great outdoors for their patients, young and old.

Meanwhile, the website Medical Express details a partnership between the Francophone Association of Doctors in Canada and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that will let patients visit galleries for free, all in the name of good health.

Its thought patients will reap the benefits, of a sort, of stealth exercise -- walking around museums is just as good an exercise as walking around a track, but far more interesting.


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