What is a Green Prescription?

Marjorie McAtee

A green prescription is an exercise referral, given by a doctor, to help a patient get support for living a more active lifestyle. According to the United States Surgeon General, just 30 minutes a day, or two and a half hours per week of exercise can help improve the symptoms of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, and arthritis. A green prescription allows a patient to seek lifestyle support and guidance from a team of health fitness professionals, who can help that patient learn to incorporate physical activity into daily life. Green prescriptions may be largely intended to help general practitioners place more emphasis on exercise and lifestyle, rather than prescription drugs, as a way to manage and improve chronic health conditions.

Prescription medicine.
Prescription medicine.

The health benefits of exercise have long been widely touted. According to health and fitness experts, regular physical activity can help prevent a number of medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis. General practitioners commonly recommend better nutrition and increased physical activity as ways to maintain or improve health. Research would seem to indicate that regular physical activity can improve health and mitigate symptoms even after the onset of a chronic health condition. Green prescriptions can help medical staff to improve patients' physical fitness and can reduce patients' reliance on prescription drugs to manage chronic health conditions.

Doctors sometimes prescribe exercise to patients, known as a green prescription.
Doctors sometimes prescribe exercise to patients, known as a green prescription.

A green prescription allows a patient access to supportive staff who can help the patient make positive lifestyle changes. Motivational phone support, educational seminars, and group physical fitness programs each form a part of most green prescription programs. Green practitioners help to educate patients about appropriate nutrition and the fundamentals of exercise. In addition to educating patients about healthy nutrition and exercise, green practitioners may also help patients recognize and cope with the emotional and psychological obstacles that can stand in the way of improving fitness.

Green prescription programs generally last from 10 to 12 weeks, and involve regular fitness sessions. Green practitioners usually help patients begin to incorporate more activity into their lives by getting them involved in group fitness activities. Patients may often choose from a wide variety of group activity options, including yoga, tai chi, aerobics, and water aerobics.

Patients also generally receive education and support to begin incorporating more physical activity into their daily lives. Patients are typically prepared to continue an independent fitness program after the green prescription support period ends. These program may include fitness classes, walking, gym workouts, or other forms of physical activity.

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