In a new large-scale study, British researchers report that spending at least two hours a week in nature may be a crucial threshold for promoting health and wellbeing.
Scientists at the University of Exeter found that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well-being 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.
Researchers evaluated 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.
Investigators found that the 120-minute threshold applied to many demographic sectors. The link was discovered among both men and women, 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.
The full paper appears in Scientific Reports.
Study leader, Dr. Mat White, comments:
“It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” said study leader Dr. Mat White.
“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.”
Moreover, there is growing evidence that merely living in a greener neighborhood can 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 Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden noted, “There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing, 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 wellbeing, similar to guidelines for weekly physical.”
Source: University of Exeter/EurekAlert