Spending at least two hours a week away from home and in touch with nature may improve your physical and mental health, according to a study published by Scientific Reports.
The research, conducted by Exeter University School of Medicine, ensures that weekly exposure to natural environments is comparable to physical activity and can benefit people’s health and well-being.
Increased exposure to or contact with natural environments such as parks, forests, and beaches is associated with improved physical and mental fitness, at least among high-income, largely urbanized populations. While living in greener urban areas is associated with lower probabilities of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, hospitalization for asthma, mental disorders and mortality among adults.
Among children the associated benefit are lower risks of obesity and nearsightedness, the study indicates. Meanwhile, greater amounts of nature in the neighborhood are associated with better health and well-being in adults, and better birth outcomes, and cognitive development in children.
However, the amount of green space in the neighborhood or the distance from home to the nearest green space or park accessible to the public is only one way to assess an individual’s level of exposure to nature. But a real alternative to health is the amount of time individuals spend outdoors in natural environments, he says.
In other words, direct exposure, or more specifically, recreational time spent in natural environments per week, cannot be accurately inferred from the neighborhood’s green space near the house. The study took two groups, one that did not spend any time in nature and another that took advantage of residential green spaces (parks, beaches and forests), and supervised them for seven days.
Each participant, from more than 20,000 people in the United Kingdom, reported on the state of their mental and physical health at the end of the study. Of those who spent time outdoors, only one in three respondents said they were dissatisfied and one in seven said they were in poor health. Of the group that did not spend time outdoors, nearly half reported “low levels of satisfaction with life,” and 25 percent were in poor health.
“We were concerned that our effect was only on the healthiest people who visited nature, but this finding suggests that even people with known illnesses who spent two hours a week in nature did better,” study coordinator Mathew White explained in the results.
The results of this research is knowledge that shouldn’t surprise you, because it makes sense. Just get out of your daily environment and stress and you’ll experience different emotions that will make you return more animated to your activities.