30 Minutes of Nature a Week Reduces Depression and Heart Disease

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If city residents all went to a park for a half hour weekly, there would be 7 percent fewer cases of depression and 9 percent fewer cases of high blood pressure.

Oh look, another study extolling the health benefits of getting outside! We’ve seen this again and again, so much research telling us that we need to have contact with nature, even if it's just a walk in the park – yet somehow we don’t seem to quite get it. (For example, this latest study notes that 40 percent of Australians in Brisbane did not visit an urban park in a typical week.)

It’s as if it’s so easy it can’t be real. And it’s free. How can something free have any real effect? Pshhhh.

The study was conducted by the University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED); it found that visiting parks delivered benefits such as reduced risk of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety and depression.

"If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure," says UQ CEED researcher Dr. Danielle Shanahan.

"Given that the societal costs of depression alone in Australia are estimated at $A12.6 billion a year, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense," she adds.

UQ CEED researcher Associate Professor Richard Fuller said the research could change people’s attitudes about city parks.

"We've known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits," he says.

"We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits."

It may be simple, it may cost nothing, but it really can work. So easy ... a walk in the park, so to speak.