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The facts are in: our best nature is out in nature. And this time it’s not just our instincts telling us this, it’s science. In a recent study, exposure to greenspace reduced the risk of a litany of conditions including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, and high blood pressure. Basically, going outside is really good for our insides.
It doesn’t take much to feel the positive effects of going outdoors either. Escaping to a park, hiking through the woods, competing in a rollerblading tournament, or spending time near the water can all significantly lower stress. Even better, it’s all types of people who feel the health benefits: young and old, men and women, rich and poor, and all races and activity levels. Indeed, the advantages of nature do not discriminate.
But how much time do you need to spend outdoors to feel these positive effects? According to data that includes more than 290 million people, the answer is 120 minutes a week. And if that seems too daunting for you, breaking that two hours between the seven days of the week could be a more realistic way of approaching it. Your daily prescription? Less than 20 minutes out in the fresh air.
So, what is it that causes the health benefits associated with the outdoors? While the specifics still remain unclear, research points to a few theories. Some suggest that many natural areas have a more diverse variety of bacteria with health-promoting properties. Others point to trees releasing organic compounds with antibacterial traits. And some attribute the positive effects to the increase of socialization that occurs when you’re outside amongst others. But whatever it is contributing to these health benefits, the outcome is clear, more time outside is better.
Now that the research is uncovering more about the relationship between health and the outdoors, the future is getting brighter and greener. Aside from clinicians better advising patients with “nature prescriptions,” there’s also hope that policymakers and town planners will invest in parks and greenspaces, especially in urban residential areas and poorer communities. As research continues, expect for the great outdoors to play an even greater role in our health.