A new study says that spending two hours a week out in nature can work wonders for your health and wellbeing.
The study, led by the University of Exeter and published in Scientific Reports, found that “people who spend at least 120 minutes each week out in nature are more likely to say they have good health and a higher psychological wellbeing that those who don’t visit nature at all.”
And it didn’t matter if the 120 minutes was in one visit or in multiple shorter visits, it found.
“The current results also suggested that it did not matter how the 'threshold' was achieved. This may be because individuals selected exposures to fit their personal preferences and circumstances. For instance, some may prefer long walks on the weekend in locations further from home; while others may prefer regular shorter visits to parks in the local area,” the study says.
Other factors – such as gender, age, occupation, ethnicity, wealth, illness and disabilities – also did not matter. The 120 minutes applied to everyone in the study.
Information from nearly 20,000 people in England was used for the study.
“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,” Dr. Mat White, who led the study, said in a press release.
He hopes that two hours a week is a realistic target for people, especially since it doesn’t have to be all at once in the week.
Professor Terry Hartig, a co-author from Uppsala University in Sweden, said there are many reasons why spending time in nature is good for us, including “getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family.”
He said these findings offer support to health practitioners in recommending spending time outdoors.
Spending time outside is important. Doing things like volunteer work (which may be outside) can help you with not only this, but also getting a job! Learn more...
The study also says that more research is needed to understand the impact of the different activities undertaken, as well as the effect of environmental quality and personal meaning.
“Nevertheless,” the study states, “we see our findings as an important starting point for discussions around providing simple, evidence-based recommendations about the amount of time spent in natural settings that could result in meaningful promotion of health and well-being.”
So, when you hear someone say that taking a walk is a good way to relieve stress, you know they’re right – especially if you do so for about 2 hours each week.