Spending 2 hours a week or more outdoors can improve your health
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 people who spent less than 120 minutes outdoors, according to a new study conducted at the University of Exeter Medical School.
Spending time outdoors, by visiting 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 of asthma, allergies, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while boosting mental health and increasing life expectancy.
“Nature is not like a pill you get prescribed by your doctor that you have to take in small doses every day,” Dr. White said. “What matters most is that you’re able to fit it into your lifestyle.”
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, 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.
“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,” said co-author of the research, Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden.
Not everyone has the benefit of living near natural landscapes or parks that they can visit or the time available to spend outdoors every day. You can still get the same health benefits by taking a long walk on one day, or making a trip to a recreational area on a weekend as you would by spending a little time in nature every day.
Some easy ways to incorporate nature into your life include eating your lunch outside, reading a book in the park, or going for a 20 minute walk.