A recent study dug into the question of how much nature does a person need to be healthy and the answer turns out to be 2 hours — not an insignificant number.  The study in Nature’s Scientific Reports surveyed people about how they felt and how much time they had spent out of doors, and the study’s authors found that the participants were more likely to report feeling well if they had spent more than 120 minutes out of doors over the past week, with little difference between key groups (such as the elderly) or how the outdoor time was spent (longer versus shorter outdoor activities).  The benefits peaked between 3 and 5 hours, with no further reported well-being gain after that.

Why This Matters:  This study affirms what many have long believed — that time spent outdoors in nature will improve health and well-being.  What has not been well understood until now is how much time outdoors in nature is enough to make a difference.  Most interesting of all, of the 20,000 people surveyed, the answer was consistently true — for men and women, older and younger adults, different ethnic groups, people living in richer or poorer areas, and for those living with long term illnesses.  We all need nature.  We hope that you are getting a good dose this week!

Benefits Of Spending Time in Nature Are Clear

According to The New York Times, a “wealth of research indicates that escaping to a neighborhood park, hiking through the woods, or spending a weekend by the lake can lower a person’s stress levels, decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk asthma, allergies, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while boosting mental health and increasing life expectancy. Doctors around the world have begun prescribing time in nature as a way of improving their patients’ health.”

  • The next step is for the health profession to hone in on medical guidelines, just as there are now for exercise.
  • According to The Times, the current weekly recommendation for adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week with 75 minutes of that being vigorous activity or some mix of both.
  • Indeed, “forest bathing” walks, inspired by a Japanese nature therapy practice called shinrin-yoku, are now being offered by the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks recreation center.

Other Countries Already Know.

  • Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China have conducted studies on the health benefits of nature, in particular on the immune system.
  • The Times reported that in Sweden, “friluftsliv, the term for living close to nature, is so ingrained in everyday life — from commuting by bike to relaxing in lakeside saunas — that there are tax breaks offered as incentives for the lifestyle.”
  • “In South Korea, the government is establishing dozens of “healing forests” for its stressed-out citizens.”
  • “And last year, NHS Shetland, a national hospital system in Scotland, began allowing doctors at some medical practices to write scripts for outdoor activities as a routine part of patient care.”

To Go Deeper:  Go to Park Rx America, a nonprofit that encourages doctors to prescribe parks, and to read abstracts of some of the more than 700 studies on this subject, go to the Children and Nature Network.

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