How spending two hours a week in nature could benefit health and well-being

Google has reportedly bought 40 acres of land in California to grow trees.

Ready for a breath of fresh air? A large-scale British study has found that spending at least two hours per week in nature could be a crucial threshold for promoting health and well-being. 

The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK and published in the Scientific Reports journal, is based on data from almost 20,000 people in England from Natural England's "Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey." The researchers found that people who spend at least 120 minutes per week in nature were significantly more likely to report good health and greater psychological well-being.

The benefits apply to all manner of natural settings, such as town parks, woodlands, country parks and beaches. Plus, according to the researchers, the 120 minutes can be achieved with several shorter visits to natural settings, as well as urban greenspaces. 

"The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit," explains Dr Mathew P. White of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study.

According to the researchers, the 120-minute threshold applied to all manner of individuals, including men, women, children, older adults, people across different occupational and ethnic groups, and even people with long-term illnesses or disabilities.

"There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and well-being, similar to guidelines for weekly physical," concludes study co-author, Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden.