This time of year, you really don’t need a good reason to get outside. The mornings are early, the days are long, and nature is buzzing.
Still, nobody knows better than I do how easy it is to get stuck inside of the office—even during these gorgeous summer days. If you can relate, I urge you to make a point of carving out time every week to leave the inside air conditioning and artificial lights behind.
Carve out two hours a week, to be exact. Because according to new research, that’s the minimum “dose” of nature you need to live your healthiest, happiest life.
Twenty minutes a day is all it takes
This was a big study, featuring data from nearly 20,000 people in England. Researchers at the University of Exeter found that, compared to people with no nature contact over the previous week, people who reported spending at least two hours outside were significantly more likely to report good health and wellbeing.
These positive associations peaked between 200 and 300 minutes a week—which actually means that 20 to 45 minutes a day is really all it takes. And it didn’t matter whether subjects went outside for two hours at once, or during shorter excursions throughout the week.
Either way, the benefits were huge, with nature lovers reporting roughly 60 percent better health and 25 percent higher well-being, on average.
The majority of the nature visits took place within a two-mile radius of home, too—so it’s not as if subjects were backpacking through the wilderness. Nearby parks, beaches, trails, and even urban green spaces proved to be equally beneficial destinations.
But the most important detail here was this: This two-hour sweet spot applied to everyone.
To men and women. To older adults and younger adults. To all occupational and ethnic groups. To people in both rich and poor areas. And among healthy people, as well as those suffering from chronic illness or disability, alike.
As vital as exercise and sleep
I’m always emphasizing the vital importance of consistent physical activity. But this is a good reminder that simply being outside offers crucial benefits to your health, too. And not just because nature and exercise tend to go hand-in-hand.
For one thing, getting adequate sunshine during the day helps your body to regulate its circadian rhythms—which in turn makes it easier to get quality, restorative sleep at night. It’s also the most effective way to boost your life-saving vitamin D levels. And if you need a refresher on why vitamin D is so essential, check out the March 2014 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“Don’t skimp on vitamin D this summer—your life depends on it”). Subscribers have access to this and all of my archives. So why wait? Click here to sign up today!
Not to mention, visiting nature provides you with a small chunk of time out of your day to sit quietly—free from the distractions of work, phones, traffic, and other life stressors—and meditate. Or if you’re with friends or family, to relax and enjoy the company of people you love.
These time outs are every bit as vital to your health as 30 minutes at the gym or a full 8-hours of sleep. So do your body a favor and work them into your day whenever you can, even if it’s just a lunchtime stroll through the nearest park.
“Two hours a week is key dose of nature for health and wellbeing.” Science Daily, 06/13/2019. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190613095227.htm)