We all know that spending time with nature far from the city is good for our health and rejuvenates us. Science now backs up. Spending at least two hours a week in nature may be a crucial threshold for promoting health and well being, according to a new large-scale study.
About the study
This research was carried on by the University of Exeter and published in Scientific Reports and funded by NIHR.
What did it find?
The study revealed that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don’t visit nature at all during an average week. However, no such benefits were found for people who visited natural settings such as town parks, woodlands, country parks and beaches for less than 120 minutes a week.
How was the study conducted?
The study used data from nearly 20,000 people in England and found that it didn’t matter whether the 120 minutes was achieved in a single visit or over several shorter visits. It also found the 120-minute threshold applied to both men and women, to older and younger adults, across different occupational and ethnic groups, among those living in both rich and poor areas, and even among people with long term illnesses or disabilities.
Dr Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study, said: “It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and wellbeing but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough. The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban green spaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.”
So, it is largely the air pollution that affects the human physiological systems.
In fact, merely living in a greener neighborhood can also be good for health, for instance by reducing air pollution. The data for the current research came from Natural England’s Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey, the world’s largest study collecting data on people’s weekly contact with the natural world.
Co-author of the research, Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden said: “There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and well being, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and well being, similar to guidelines for weekly physical.”