Whether you’re exploring local parks around town or chasing majestic waterfalls in Iceland (like one of my friends just did), nature seems to offer us more than just breathtaking scenery. For me, venturing into the wilderness allows me to reconnect with my “self.” And, regardless of where I go in nature, I seem to feel an increase in overall well-being and a decrease in stress. Can science back me up here? According to a new study by Australian and UK environmental scientists, people who spend 30 minutes or more each week in nature were found to have lower blood pressure and better emotional health scores than those who didn’t. The paper was published in Nature Scientific Reports.
Based on the results of this study, the team of researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) recommend that we spend more time in nature. Dr. Danielle Shanahan, from UQ CEED, commented on the study by saying that by visiting parks on a weekly basis, we could reduce our risk of developing anxiety, depression, stress, and heart disease.
“If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure,” she said.
Another UQ CEED researcher, Associate Professor Richard Fuller, said that these results could help us change the way we think about urban parks. “We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits. We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits.”
Nature isn’t just for adults. either. Dr. Shanahan says that, “Our children especially benefit from spending more time outdoors. Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened environmental awareness as adults than those who don’t.”