New research has found that sitting calmly in woods, on the beach or even in parks has important physical and mental health benefits.
The research, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, used data from a survey carried out by Natural England, which asked 20,000 people about their activities in the previous week.
Of those people who spent little or no time in nature, a quarter said they had poor health and almost half said they were not satisfied with their life. While of those who spent at least two hours in nature only one in seven had poor health and a third said they were not satisfied with their life.
Benefits Apply to Everyone
The researchers said that what amazed them most about the findings, was that it applied to all sections of society, including those people with long term illnesses and disabilities. Young and old, wealthy and poor and rural and urban people all reported the same benefits.
“Getting out in nature seemed to be good for just about everybody. It doesn’t have to be physical exercise – it could be just sitting on a bench,” Dr Mathew White, at the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study told the Guardian.
They also found that in didn’t seem to matter of the two hours were sent all in one go or over shorter visits and that two hours appeared to be a threshold and spending much more than that did not seem to have give any further benefits.
Scientists found that people got more stress reduction if the area they visited had a high level of biodiversity.
“We have tracked 4,500 people’s visits from the same survey and what you find is they get more stress reduction if the location was an area of outstanding natural beauty, a site of special scientific interest or that kind of thing,” said Dr White.
The researchers considered a series of factors in compiling their findings including levels of air pollution, if people were married, had dogs and the greenness of the neighbourhood where they live.
They were unable to determine if the boost to health was due to people taking more exercise when they were in nature but other research published recently from Japan pointed to so-called forest bathing where people just sit passively and soak up nature as having various psychological benefits.