Spending two hours a week in nature can make you healthier and happier, according to a new study.
The report, led by the University of Exeter and published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that people who spent at least 120 minutes in nature per week were healthier and expressed a greater sense of wellbeing than people who didn’t get outside at all.
The study looked at data from nearly 20,000 people in the UK who took part in a government-led survey about how they engage with the natural environment. They were asked about their general health, and how satisfied they were with life.
It didn’t matter whether they spent 120 minutes outside at one time, or whether they achieved the goal with a number of shorter visits. The benefits were also true for everyone — men and women, young and old, and those living in rich or poor areas.
Spending less than two hours a week did not have a significant effect on health or wellbeing, and spending more than five hours offered no extra benefits.
“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,” said Dr. Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study. “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.”
Nowadays, many people live in a domesticated environment. They get up, drive to work, sit in front of a computer all day, maybe squeeze in a gym workout on the way home, eat dinner, and go to bed. That’s a far cry from how your ancestors went about their day.
Your body evolved feeling the cold, sweating in the sun, touching plants, seeing trees, and eating real food. Spending time in nature increases your performance and makes you healthier, stronger, and fitter. Read on for ways to get more of the natural world into your daily life.
Easy ways to reap the benefits of nature:
- Stay local: The study found that most of the people visited greenspaces within two miles of their home, so even going to your local park carries benefits.
- Take a daily walk outdoors: Just half an hour a day will help you achieve the two-hour quota a week.
- Eat outside: Instead of eating lunch at your desk, head over to a park and take in the scenery.
- Pay attention to fractals: Take time to look up at clouds passing by, or tree branches swaying in the breeze. Nature is full of fractals — patterns that repeat over and over again in smaller magnification. Studies show that simply looking at fractals lowers stress by up to 60%. Learn more about fractals here.
- Try forest bathing: Forest bathing means immersing yourself in nature, ideally by taking a gentle scroll under a canopy of trees. Forest bathing carries numerous benefits, including reduced stress, improved mood, and increased energy.