People who spent at least two hours outside—either at one time or cumulatively over several shorter visits per week—were more likely to report good health and psychological well-being.
No one has ever said that the time they spent outside on a walk, in the mountains, at the beach, playing sports was a waste of time. In areas with more trees there tends to be less pollution, so spending time there allows you to breathe easier. Studies have linked time outside with reduced blood pressure and stress, and to an increased motivation for more exercise.
But most people who ask the question, “How much time outside will really make a difference in my health?” are greeted with uncertainty. In the past, there wasn’t a definitive answer health care providers could offer.
Now, we have it.
You need at least two hours to realize both a significant health and psychological benefit from spending time in the Great Outdoors. Research by Mathew P. White with the University of Exeter Medical School revealed that less than two hours doesn’t get you there and any outdoor activity is equivalent to not going outside at all.
Even more noteworthy, the two-hour benchmark applied to men and women, to older and younger folks, to people from different ethnic backgrounds, occupational groups, socioeconomic levels, and so on. Even people with long term illnesses or disabilities benefited from time spent in nature—as long as it was at least 120 minutes per week. The study is in the journal Scientific Reports.
White cautions that the findings are really just a correlation. Nobody knows why or how it works, or even if the findings will stand up to more rigorous investigation.
“I want to be really clear about this. This is very early stages. We’re not saying everybody has to do 120. This is really to start the conversation, saying, what would a threshold look like? What research do we need to take this to the next step before doctors can have the true confidence to work with their patients? But it’s certainly a starting point,” says White.
Are you getting two hours a week of time outside? Consider forest-bathing. That sounds like a good use of your time. What about a walk around the neighborhood after work to the nearest park? It really doesn’t matter what you do, just get outside. It might inspire you 🙂
The original article was written by Jason G. Goldman and published by Scientific American. It can be found here: