Get out of the house, kids!
Go play outside!
I don’t know a single mother who hasn’t barked those words at her kids at one point in time. And while getting the kids out of the house so she could enjoy five minutes of peace and quiet might have been your mother’s prime directive, I like to think mothers have good instincts, so it’s possible her intuition told her getting outside would make you healthier.
Mother’s instinct was correct: Science says so!
A new study published in the Journal Scientific Reports (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3) says a two-hour dose of nature each week boosts not just mental health, but even physical health.
OK, the truth is this isn’t the first study to tell us this, but it IS the first study to tell us how much time we need to spend in the woods, the park, at the beach, or climbing a mountain each week in order to reap the health benefits. The answer: A minimum of two hours.
To discover their findings, the researchers interviewed 20,000 people from England about their weekly activity levels. They were specifically curious as to how much of this time was spent outside.
Of those who said they rarely spent time in nature, close to 50 percent of them also said they weren’t happy with their lives, and a quarter of them were considered to have poor physical health. Meanwhile, of those who said they spent at least two hours outside per week, only 14 percent of were of poor health, and considerably fewer (20 percent fewer) said they weren’t happy with their lives.
These numbers were fairly consistent even when considering different demographics of people: rural versus urban, wealthy versus urban, and old versus young.
Does where you are outdoors matter?
While the latter study didn’t consider where you were outside—in a remote forest versus going for a walk on along the Vegas strip—previous research that looked into Japanese forest bathing suggests that being in a quieter place in nature helps reduce stress more than spending time outside in a more urban environment.
And for those of you who spend too much time in the gym to even want to consider doing more exercise just for the sake of getting outside, that same research suggests you don’t even need to be exercising to get the health benefits: You can literally just be sitting passively in non-urban natural environments taking in your surroundings (and the sun tanners score a point!).
5 other researched health benefits of spending time outside include:
1. Reduces inflammation: This study looked at students who spend time outside: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22840583). This study looked at its effects on the elderly (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22948092)
2. Decreases anxiety and depression: There is a lot of research that suggests this. Here’s one study: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov./pubmed/20337470)
3. Lowers blood pressure: This might be linked to stress levels being lower after spending time outside: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793346/)
4. Boosts you immune system: This 2010 study says just that: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/)
5. Improves creativity: If you have a job that requires being creative, consider spending time outside first. This study says it increases creativity (measured by a creative problem-solving task test) by 50 percent: (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0051474).
The gym’s great. We love it when you come here. But we also want you to get outside!