News

‘Green prescribing’ a good way to coax older people outdoors

Older people more likely to do outdoor activity if it’s recommended by a healthcare professional
exercising outdoors

Nurses can influence improvements in the physical and mental health of older people by advising them to do outdoor activities, a study found.

Research for the Scottish government looked at the benefits of green prescribing advising patients to be physically active outdoors and what it is that stops older people from doing this.

A 2014 survey of Scotlands population showed that only 32% of people aged 75 years or older made one or more visits to green spaces a week compared to 52% of 45 to 59-year-olds.

Barriers to outdoor exercise

The researchers carried out interviews to understand the barriers to outdoor recreation that older people face: these included not wanting to go outside on their own, a lack of motivation and not having easy access to outdoor spaces.

Nurses can influence improvements in the physical and mental health of older people by advising them to do outdoor activities, a study found.


Prescription of outdoor exercise can be effective for older people  Photo: iStock

Research for the Scottish government looked at the benefits of ‘green prescribing’ – advising patients to be physically active outdoors – and what it is that stops older people from doing this.

A 2014 survey of Scotland’s population showed that only 32% of people aged 75 years or older made one or more visits to green spaces a week compared to 52% of 45 to 59-year-olds.

Barriers to outdoor exercise

The researchers carried out interviews to understand the barriers to outdoor recreation that older people face: these included not wanting to go outside on their own, a lack of motivation and not having easy access to outdoor spaces.

Co-author Margaret Currie of the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, said people are more likely to take up an outdoor activity if it has been recommended by a healthcare professional. Opportunities such as diabetes check-ups with a practice nurse could be used for such prescribing, she said.

Ms Currie added: ‘It may be useful to tailor interventions to suit people of different abilities and preferences, and to target people at key moments of life change such as retirement, or friends or spouses passing away.’

Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the Holyrood government would look at the report’s recommendations.


Further information

James Hutton Institute report on access to outdoor recreation

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