British researchers found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature a week improves your health and psychological wellbeing. This is yet another study that underscores the importance of reconnecting with nature.
The study involved nearly 20,000 people in England, whose outdoor habits were surveyed by a team of researchers at the University of Exeter. The study found that spending time in a natural setting (town parks, woodlands, country parks, beaches, and so on) was associated with higher levels of self-reported good health and psychological wellbeing — as long as they spent at least two hours outdoors every week. Those who didn’t cross the 120-minute threshold experienced no such 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. 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,” said Dr. Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School.
Previously, another study found people who spent time in natural settings reported greater feelings of relaxation and lower levels of stress, as well as stronger emotional connections to the natural world — the more time they spent in nature, the more they cared about it. Children might stand to benefit the most by spending time in nature — according to a 2019 study, children with a stronger connection to nature had less distress and hyperactivity, as well as fewer behavioral and emotional difficulties and improved pro-social behavior.
There’s much we don’t know about the relationship between nature and human wellbeing. For instance, how do people’s relationships with nature form? How do they influence personal values and attitudes? And what behavioral implications do they have? These are interesting questions that research in the future might answer. In the meantime, try a walk in the park — it might do you a lot of good.
“There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. 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,” said Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden, who is a co-author of the research published in Scientific Reports.