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Take Two Walks in the Park and Call Me in the Morning

Researchers confirm and quantify the positive health effects of time in green spaces

While the country works to slow the spread of COVID-19, getting outside can be a safe and effective way to improve your health while practicing social distancing. Just two hours a week spent in nature can cause significant health improvements, according to a 2019 study from the University of Exeter.

Several studies have shown a correlation between time spent in nature and overall health, but the Exeter researchers sought quantifiable outcomes to support more actionable guidelines for clinicians. They surveyed nearly 20,000 participants about their recreational nature contact over one week and found that improvements in measured self-reported health and subjective well-being were noticeable starting at just 120 minutes in nature a week.

“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,” said Dr. Matthew White, who led the study. Most of the nature visits participants recorded took place within just two miles of their homes in accessible settings like town parks, woodlands, and beaches, making this goal even more attainable.

The researchers hope that their work empowers clinicians to discuss time spent in nature with their patients, just as they discuss physical activity today.

“The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and wellbeing,” said study co-author Dr. Terry Hartig.

Read more about the study in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports and see how Epic cultivates green spaces on campus.