There’s already a substantial body of evidence to suggest spending time in green spaces is good for your health and wellbeing. But now experts think they know how long you have to immerse yourself in nature to get the benefits.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, University of Exeter researchers say two hours a week is the magic amount. And not necessarily two hours all at once either, as two hours split up into several shorter visits had the same effect.

The study is a fairly large-scale one that analysed information on 20,000 people in England. Those who spent at least 120 minutes in nature a week were found to be significantly more likely to say they were in good health and report good psychological wellbeing than people who didn’t visit any natural environments during an average week. The 120-minute threshold applies to men and women of all ages from different occupational, ethnic and socio-economic groups, even those with long-term illnesses and disabilities, the researchers claim.

“It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and wellbeing but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” says Dr Mat White of Exeter University’s medical school. “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.”

While you’re out and about in your local park, in the country, the woods or at the beach, try actively noticing the things around you, such as trees, flower and birds. Noticing and recording the good things in nature could boost your mental health even further, say Derby University researchers. Writing in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the scientists found a ‘clinically significant and positive effect’ on wellbeing after just seven days when volunteers used a smartphone app that prompted them to notice the beauty in natural environments.

The team is working on a similar walking app that will be available to the public some time soon.


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