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‘I green prescribe myself all the time!’

TV Doctor Amir Khan joins Ordnance Survey in supporting Government trial for local authorities issuing ‘green’ social prescriptions such as walking, wheeling, and cycling to improve mental and physical health.

New OS Ambassador Dr Amir Khan regularly prescribes time outdoors with nature for patients at his NHS surgery in Bradford. This means referring his patients to take part in organised community nature projects or walking groups so they can improve their physical and mental well-being.

The Government announced in August that 11 local authorities will be able to issue social prescriptions such as walking, wheeling, and cycling as part of a new trial to improve mental and physical health and reduce disparities across the country.

Dr Amir, a familiar face on ITV show Good Morning Britain, explained why he backed the idea.

What is green prescribing? 

“There is so much evidence behind getting outdoors in green spaces and this idea of green prescribing which is getting people involved in community nature projects so they can improve their physical and mental health, and getting referrals into those kind of projects.

“We know that people, whether they are on medication or not for their mental health, can benefit because it helps with your serotin and dopamine levels which keep you calmer and more relaxed and help fight against things like anxiety and depression.

“But also the physical side of things is really important. People are generally more active when they are outside and that can help with cardio-vascular health, blood pressure, things like type two diabetes, so it is really good.

“We are also exposed to natural light when we are out there and that is really important for our sleep cycles so the health benefits go on and on and on so I want to encourage as many people as possible to go out and enjoy our natural green spaces.”

Do you ever green prescribe yourself?

“Yes! I constantly green prescribe myself.

“It’s the first thing I do after a really crazy day at the surgery. Particularly during the pandemic when we were seeing people with Covid type systems, going into nursing homes was really stressful. So I’d come home and rather than go inside the house I would go straight into the garden and just take a moment to get rid of the all the stress that I was feeling. Even if it was something simple like filling up the birdfeeders or putting food out for the hedgehogs, just being around that green space has been really important for my mental health during a very stressful time.

“Now we have got the winter pressures and backlog in the NHS and managing all of that, more than ever I am trying to get outside where I can.”

Do you green prescribe your patients?

“Patients come and see me around their mental health issues. I’m also a specialist in type-two diabetes so I am often talking to people who are living with type-two diabetes about the importance of moving and exercising outdoors.

“What is really important is catching the patient at the right time because not everyone is in the right frame of mind to be able to engage in green spaces depending on where they are on their health journey.

“It is important that they have the information there and know about the benefits so when they are in that right head space to go outside they can make an informed decision about it.

OS support for social prescribing

Nick Giles OBE, Managing Director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, said: “Ordnance Survey (OS) welcomes the announcement by the Government to start trialling social prescriptions across eleven local authority areas. At OS we talk about making the outdoors enjoyable, accessible and safe and the new trials really support these messages. It’s great to see funding covering initiatives to help people access the outdoors such as cycle training, free bike loans and walking mental health groups, as well as improved infrastructure so people feel safe.

“In recent years we have seen people across the country benefit from getting outside and walking. During the Covid-19 lockdowns walking and cycling became a key part of people’s daily routines supporting both their physical and mental health. Our free mapping app, OS Maps, saw an 80% increase in downloads and huge activity across our urban maps including green spaces and cycle networks.

“It’s vital that we build on this momentum and encourage more people to get outside and keep active. From rural villages and national parks to cities and town parks there are so many places to explore and discover across our great nation. For anyone getting into walking or cycling my advice would be to start local and use a map to find new walks and rides.

“The OS GetOutside website also has some fantastic resources and advice for people wanting to learn more about walking and cycling outside. I’m confident that people taking part in the trial will get the outdoor bug and will soon start to explore further.

“In addition to the physical and mental health benefits walking is a great way to connect with friends and family and can also help us become more sustainable through the ultimate green transport. We look forward to seeing the growth of the new scheme and the benefits it delivers to society.”

Channel website: https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/

Original article link: https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/newsroom/news/i-green-prescribe-myself-all-the-time

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