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Regularly immersing yourself in nature can help health and wellbeing

Published on January 16, 2020

A man walks through a scenic natural environment.
A study of 20,000 participants shows that it is beneficial to spend 2 hours a week outdoors.

How long does it take to get a dose of nature high enough to make people say they feel healthy and have a strong sense of well-being?

Precisely 120 minutes.

In a study of 20,000 people, a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at University of Exeter, found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t. Two hours was a hard boundary: The study, published last June, showed there were no benefits for people who didn’t meet that threshold. The effects were robust, cutting across different occupations, ethnic groups, people from rich and poor areas, and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

Peter H. Kahn, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington who has worked on these issues for decades, is encouraged by the new focus on the subject but concerned that the growing interest in more contact with nature relies too much on only experiencing it visually. “That’s important, but an impoverished view of what it means to interact with the natural world,” he said. “We need to deepen the forms of interaction with nature and make it more immersive.”

While the research has grown leaps and bounds, Kahn and others argue in a recent review paper that research into the topic is still lacking in many ways, and they lay out a research agenda they say would help formalize the role of nature in public health policy.

Continue reading at PBS

Originally written by Jim Robbins for PBS News Hour.
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