Quantcast

Two Hours a Week in Nature Can Boost Your Health and Well-Being, Research Finds

Health + Wellness
Sam Spicer / Moment / Getty Images

New research has given credence to the age-old wisdom that spending time outside is good for you. A study recently published in Nature's Scientific Reports journal found that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature per week have higher odds of reporting better health and psychological well-being.


Researchers at the University of Exeter used data from almost 20,000 people in the UK who participated in a two-year survey funded by Natural England, which is the world's largest effort to collect data on people's weekly interactions with nature, according to The Guardian.

They found that people who spent two hours in nature were 23 percent more likely to report being satisfied with their life — a common well-being indicator — and were 59 percent more likely to report being in good health than those who had zero exposure to nature, Reuters reported.

Interestingly, the health benefits of getting at least 120 minutes of nature exposure each week persisted whether the threshold was met in one trip or multiple, and benefits increased for up to 300 minutes of exposure before plateauing. Additionally, the benefits seen after reaching 120 minutes applied widely to men and women of all ages, as well as across different ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and even those with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

"What really amazed us was that this was true for all groups of people," lead author Dr. Mathew White of the University of Exeter Medical School told The New York Times.

That said, people who did not get at least two hours in nature — even if they surpassed an hour per week — were not any more likely to say they were in good health than those who spent no time in natural spaces, White wrote in Quartz.

The researchers said the benefits could be tied to reduced stress from the tranquil setting or physical activities that are done outdoors, though the study wasn't designed to look for specific reasons why the benefits exist. White also noted in his Quartz article that because the data was self-reported, it was possible that participants might not have accurately remembered their time in nature during the previous week or might have gotten nervous speaking about their health and well-being.

The study is the latest addition to a compelling body of evidence that doctors should consider handing out nature prescriptions to their patients — in fact, many in the U.S. and UK are doing so already. In March, a large Danish study found that living near nature as a child could reduce a person's risk of mental illness as an adult. Other studies have revealed that the decades-old Japanese technique of "forest-bathing" has a range of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reduced disease risk and faster healing times.

The study didn't count time spent in a person's own yard or garden as time in nature, but the researchers said you don't need to completely escape civilization each week to benefit.

"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," Dr. White said in a press release. "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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A vegan diet can improve your health, but experts say it's important to keep track of nutrients and protein. Getty Images

By Dan Gray

  • Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
  • A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
  • It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.

New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.

Read More Show Less
Students gathered at the National Mall in Washington DC, Sept. 20. NRDC

By Jeff Turrentine

Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
samael334 / iStock / Getty Images

By Ruairi Robertson, PhD

Berries are small, soft, round fruit of various colors — mainly blue, red, or purple.

Read More Show Less
A glacier is seen in the Kenai Mountains on Sept. 6, near Primrose, Alaska. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the glaciers in the area since 1966 and their studies show that the warming climate has resulted in sustained glacial mass loss as melting outpaced the accumulation of new snow and ice. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Mark Mancini

On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.

Read More Show Less
Members of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America table at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18. Alex Schwartz

By Alex Schwartz

Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
StephanieFrey / iStock / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Muffins are a popular, sweet treat.

Read More Show Less
Hackney primary school students went to the Town Hall on May 24 in London after school to protest about the climate emergency. Jenny Matthews / In Pictures / Getty Images

By Caroline Hickman

Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?

Read More Show Less
Myrtle warbler. Gillfoto / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bird watching in the U.S. may be a lot harder than it once was, since bird populations are dropping off in droves, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less