New study confirms nature promotes health and well-being
Sometimes, life can feel stale, boring, or even depressing. Do you ever go outside to get some fresh air and come back feeling refreshed, energized, or just “better?”
Research published in Scientific Reports 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.
Using data from nearly 20,000 people, the study found that it didn't matter whether the 2 hours happened in a single visit or over several shorter visits.
And the positive effects were almost universal—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.
Two hours a week seems like a realistic amount of time for most people; it could do us all good to get 15 or 20 minutes of nature every day.
And according to research, you don’t have to travel far to get the positive effects: “The majority of nature visits in this research took place within two miles of home. So even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing,” said Dr. Mat White, who led the study.
It’s similar to getting a weekly physical. Nature helps us:
- Reduce stress
- Gain perspective on life circumstances
- Enjoy quality time with friends and family
Other studies have offered similar conclusions about the benefits of being outside. For example:
- Taking a walk in nature reduced depression in 71% of patients
- 69% of people who took part in "green" activities like gardening or environmental conservation work felt an increased sense of well-being
A lack of time outside can be detrimental—especially for children. This has led to what is being called Nature-Deficit Disorder, a metaphor used to describe the human costs of separation from nature. Just some of the potential negative side-effects from this condition include:
- Diminished use of the senses
- Attention difficulties
- Higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Child and adult obesity
The best way to be a positive impact for your children is to lead by example. That means making time outside a priority, even if the kids complain. Later in life, they'll probably thank you. No one ever looks back on their childhood and remembers a day spent watching TV as the best day ever.
Tip: Still be careful about adverse weather conditions. Don't stay outside for too long in extreme temperatures, such as a typical summer day in Phoenix. Be sure to check out our tips on staying safe in the summer heat.