The Health Benefits of Getting Back to Nature

Fresh air, sunshine and green space can do a lot for our health and well-being, says a brand new study. With demanding jobs and the distractions of indoor hobbies, like watching Netflix and scrolling through social media, it's easy to forget just how great it feels to step outside.

Whether it's a long hike on the weekend or a few minutes each day strolling through a local park, immersing ourselves in nature is worth the effort. There are genuine health benefits to getting back to nature.

Recent research connects 120 minutes outside each week with an improved quality of life. Not to mention that lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, improved mental health and decreased risk of obesity are also specific health benefits of taking time to get outside. Let's break down the benefits and explore a few ideas for building a habit of heading outside.

120 Minutes in The Great Outdoors

Using self-reported data, the journal Nature collected the details on how 19,806 individuals interact with the natural world and how it affects their health. According to the results, those who spend at least 120 minutes outside each week experience notable health benefits.

Specifically, no matter how they were spending time outside or how that time was broken up in the week, those who spent 2 hours or more outside each week reported improved quality of life and personal wellness. These results were consistent, even among older adults facing chronic health conditions.

The Benefits of Getting Outside

Improved quality of life may seem kind of ambiguous, but there is research that points out specific health benefits sp let's take a look. For example, we know that city dwellers with access to green space have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and that living removed from greenspace increases the risk of obesity.

For individuals facing the mental health consequences of living with socioeconomic inequality, access to natural spaces can reduce mental distress. This benefit applies to the broader population, too, with research connecting living near green space with improved mental well-being.

Feeling Stuck Inside? Start Small

So how can we take advantage of this idea and cash in on these benefits? Heading outside for 120 minutes each week can seem like a lot if you're struggling to get in nature for even a few minutes at a time. The best way to create a new, healthy habit is to start with small, realistic changes and increase them over time.

For example, consider joining a Meetup hiking group and commit to attending at least twice per month. Make enjoying nature a family affair, penciling in a playdate at the local park with children or grandkids on Saturday mornings. Consider taking your dog on long walks or to the local dog park. Find green space near your work and grab a few minutes here and there when it is time for a break or spend your lunch break outside, no matter the weather. Set up a sitting area on your front porch or in the back yard. Drive out to the country on weekends and look for ways to walk or sit amid the trees or farms. (And when you get there, roll your windows down.)

Getting outside for a few minutes at a time adds up for the long term, and the potential health benefits are worth a commitment to enjoying the natural world. You don't have to hug the tree to love what it does for your health.

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9/3/2019 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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Walk around your own backyard and watch the sun rise every morning.; or eat breakfast on your own back porch.Breathe clean fresh air, listen to the birds sing, and enjoy the deep quietness.
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