From the beginning of school, children are taught to spend a specific amount of time outdoors every day to improve overall health. However, kids, as well as the adult population of today, do not stay outside for any purposes, other than work or school. A common question that comes here is – How much time does one need to spend outdoors?
A new study answers the query of how many hours an individual needs to spend with nature for its fundamental benefits. Previous research on the subject reveals that people who live closer to greeners lands may live longer and have better general health.
For the people living in the heart of urban cities, adopting a similar lifestyle is particularly hard. This is the main reason why walking, hiking or simply just spending time in parks or in the countryside is also recommended by health professionals.
Therefore, the aim of the new study was to look at the relationship between health and nature as well as to calculate the exact time needed to get the beneficial effects. The findings of the study can be found in the journal Scientific Reports.
Read the study here.
How Was the Research Conducted?
To look at how nature affects health, researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom and Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the data coming from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey.
The used data was obtained by conducting interviews with the participants who were taken as a representative population sample for the United Kingdom. The questions were usually on the health of the participant and the amount of time they had spent with nature in the past week.
This way, the researchers were able to calculate the average number of hours people spend at natural sites. In addition, other factors such as health, sex, diet, smoking habits, social and familial life, and exercise were also taken into account.
What Were the Outcomes?
After monitoring the participants, the research found that no health benefits were reported or noted by themselves until the participants spent at least two hours outdoors. This excludes shopping trips, walking on streets, or anything within the city.
If a participant spent less than two hours, there were no significant changes in health. Secondly, the benefits remained the same even if the participant stayed in nature for more than a two hour time period. The time spent could be many short trips or a longer one.
The co-author of the study, Prof. Terry Hartig, says that there are a number of advantages of spending time in natural sites. A person may be able to work better, stay stress-free, and have better mental health. Hence, spending time in a forest or countryside may be better than going anywhere in the city for relieving stress.
Although the study is a big addition in evidence of the benefits of nature, the researchers themselves state that there are some limitations. For instance, data based on human memory cannot be completely relied upon as people tend to mix and forget things.
Additionally, the study did not take into account other factors such as associated mental health issues. The people choosing the spend less time outdoors may do so due to depression. On the contrary, people spending more time may already be happy and content.
However, spending time outdoors is generally beneficial for health in accordance with medical literature on the subject and this study further proves the point.