If you’re looking for simple steps to a healthier mind and body, consider taking those steps outdoors. New research finds that people who spend at least two hours a week in a natural environment — like parks, beaches, woodlands or urban green spaces — are more likely to have better physical health and psychological well-being than those who do not venture into the great outdoors.
The findings, which included 59 percent improved odds for overall good health and 23 percent better odds of psychological well-being — were based on data from a nationally representative sample of 19,806 British adults, published in the journal Scientific Reports. Age, gender, ethnicity, occupation and income made no difference, the research found, and the positive effect was consistent for those with and without chronic illness or disability. It also did not matter whether people spent time in a natural environment in one two-hour visit or in multiple short exposures.
Over the years, researchers and health experts have attributed a wide range of benefits to people’s exposure to green space, including stress reduction, lower blood pressure, better sleep and reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes. The current study’s authors expressed hope that their findings might inspire health guidelines calling for 120 minutes a week of nature exposure, similar to the Physical Activity Guidelines, put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that call for 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity.
— Linda Searing