|A Vancouver Island tree-hugger
Researchers in Britain suspect that two hours a week spent in nature produces big improvement in health and well-being.
The physical and mental health benefits of time spent in parks, woods or the beach are well known, but the new research is the first major study into how long is needed to produce the effect. If confirmed by future research, two hours in nature could join five a day of fruit and veg and 150 minutes of exercise a week as official health advice.
The finding is based on interviews with 20,000 people in England about their activity in the previous week. Of those who spent little or no time in nature, a quarter reported poor health and almost half said they were not satisfied with their life, a standard measure of wellbeing. In contrast, just one-seventh of those who spent at least two hours in nature said their health was poor, while a third were not satisfied with their life.
“What really amazed us was this was true for just about every group we could think of,” said Dr Mathew White, at the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study. The benefits of a two-hour dose were the same for both young and old, wealthy and poor, and urban and rural people, he said.Sound too good to be true? It does, sort of. I can say that the beach does make me feel noticeably better. There's a beautiful beach a half mile down the road that, during the week, is virtually empty where, on a good day, you can take it all in - right to the mountains over on the mainland, the far side of the Salish Sea. Take a book, sit on a log, watch the tide go out and the birds come in to feast - very relaxing.
It also applied to those with long-term illnesses and disabilities, White said. “So 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.”