Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature

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Health is not something that is evenly distributed. Whites generally enjoy better health than do racial minorities. The rich are better off, health-wise, than the poor. And those in urban settings have more access to healthcare than do those in rural areas. 

Researchers and policy-makers refer to these differences as health disparities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.”

Recently, Matthew White, of the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK, and his colleagues identified one activity that might counter health disparities. Spending time in nature might be the answer.  

The researchers analyzed data from about 20,000 people in England. The study participants responded to survey items about their health and recreational time spent in nature. 

The researchers also controlled for factors that might influence the findings, such as neighborhood greenspace, air pollution, crime rates, and so on. 

Results showed that people who spent 120 minutes or more in nature each week had better health and well-being than those who did not. 

Importantly, the findings were consistent across a range of demographic characteristics, such as gender, age, social class, disability status, and geographic differences. That is, irrespective of one’s personal characteristics, spending time in nature was linked with health benefits. Just two hours a week did the trick.

Luckily, city, state, and federal government websites routinely list parks and nature trails nearby. So, this weekend, go take a hike, have fun in a park, or explore other areas. You might find some health benefits in doing so.