According to a recent British study published in the journal Scientific Reports, spending at least two hours a week outside may be good for one’s health. Nearly 20,000 English people were asked how many hours they spent in natural environments like parks, forests, and beaches in the last seven days; whether they considered their health to be good or poor; and if they felt their well-being was high or low. Those reporting nature contact of at least two hours per week were significantly more likely to report ‘good’ health and ‘high’ well-being compared to those reporting zero. (No additional benefit was seen from spending over 3.5 to 5 hours in nature.)
I shot this on a bike ride earlier this week. I love the reflections of the lights on Lake Michigan
While this association was seen even in people who did not meet current physical activity guidelines, the authors were unable to fully untangle time spent outside from time spent being active. It is possible that healthier, happier people are simply more likely to spend more time in nature or live in areas with more open space, but the association was seen even for those with long-term illness or disability. In this study, even people who needed to travel outside of their neighborhoods to reach a park or other natural area benefited from regularly spending time in nature.
As regular readers know, I am a nature lover. Here are a couple of my posts on being outside:
Urban greenspace boosts mental health
Tips on enjoying the outdoors safely
Benefits of exercising outdoors
For the record, I pretty much live in downtown Chicago. I am a city guy and love the fact that I have access to everything a great city has to offer. Within a mile of my apartment, I have dozens of restaurants of every kind, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Public Library for starters. In the evening, there is the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera and tons of smaller, but very professional theater groups. Those are some of the high points of living in a major metropolitan area. Nonetheless, despite this uber-urban environment, my favorite aspects of where I live are Lake Michigan over which I get sunrises every morning, along this lakefront lie a bike path stretching for miles. In addition, there is also the wonderful nature scene along the shore where rabbits, squirrels, ducks, geese and other wild life flourish. I carry nuts and seeds on the bike when I ride so I can feed the sparrows, ducks and squirrels.
I truly believe I have the best of both worlds – an urban environment as well as the beauty of nature – here.
So, I was very happy to read about how urban green space relates positively to mental health in a study from Australia. Continue reading