A new large-scale study finds out just how much nature is enough to make a difference.
Science keeps proving that spending time in nature does the mind and body well. In Japan they have official Forest Therapy trails designated for "shinrin-yoku" (forest bathing) to improve health. Meanwhile, one comprehensive review concluded that spending time in greenspace "reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure, among other benefits." While another study found that even just observing around you, be it a dandelion escaping through a pavement crack or a houseplant on a windowsill, can boost happiness.
Yet even with mounting evidence of nature's generous health benefits, how many doctors suggest spending time in nature? "Eat more fruit and vegetables, cut down on salt and unhealthy fats, drink less, exercise more," sure. But never, "go sit by a tree."But with a new large-scale study out from the University of Exeter, maybe that will change. What's different here is that the researchers came up with a concrete number – a dosage, if you will – of how much time in nature is required to reap her benefits.
The magic number is a minimum of two hours in a natural setting – from city parks to woodlands and the beach – per week.
According the University, "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." The time spent could be in a single chunk or broken up into several shorter visits.
Surprisingly, no such benefits were found for those who had less than 120 minutes a week in nature.
The research analysed data from nearly 20,000 people in England and found that this key dose was relevant despite age and gender, and was effective 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, reports the University.
Lead author Dr. Matthew White of the University of Exeter Medical School, 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 greenspaces 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."
Co-author Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden, adds, "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."
Not only should this be valuable for health practitioners to keep in mind, but city planners as well. More urban trees and greenspace, please!
You can see Dr. White introduce the research in the video below.
The paper, "Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing," was published in Scientific Reports.