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Why spending time in nature is good for your health

To reap the health benefits of spending time in nature, experts recommend a minimum of 120 minutes per week. This duration has been associated with significant improvements in physical, mental and emotional well-being, including reduced cardiovascular disease, stress levels, enhanced mood, and increased happiness. However, more time spent in nature can provide additional benefits, so aiming for at least two hours per week is a good starting point for a healthier lifestyle.


If everyone spent 2 hours of week volunteering with our group, they could make a considerable difference in helping to protect and preserve the environment, and local biodiversity while improving their physical mental, and emotional well-being!

Walking through Lagoon Creek


Research and studies have consistently shown the positive effects of nature on physical health. Let's delve into some of these benefits with evidence and references to support these claims.


  • This study, titled "The Impact of Nature on Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health," conducted a meta-analysis of various research papers on the subject. It found compelling evidence that spending time in natural environments, such as forests, parks, or coastal areas, is associated with lower blood pressure levels.

  • The meta-analysis included data from over 10,000 participants across multiple studies, highlighting the robustness of the findings.

  • The researchers observed that exposure to natural settings led to a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings among participants.

  • Furthermore, the study suggested that the calming and stress-reducing effects of nature play a key role in improving cardiovascular health, potentially lowering the risk of hypertension and related conditions.


A Volunteer Sharlett, helping to care for native plant species that get used in natural area restoration and backyard biodivesrity

Eucalypts racemosa a once regularly climbed tree by Koalas in Lagoon Creek but now seriously in decline due to habitat loss.


  • Physiological Effects of Nature:

  • A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology (2010) examined the physiological effects of spending time in nature, particularly in forests. This research, known as "Shinrin-yoku" or forest bathing, originated in Japan and has gained attention globally.

  • The study involved measuring various physiological parameters, such as heart rate variability, cortisol levels (a stress hormone), and blood pressure, before and after participants spent time in a forest environment.

  • Results showed a significant decrease in heart rate, lower cortisol levels, and reduced blood pressure after forest bathing sessions. These physiological changes indicate a relaxation response and improved cardiovascular function.


One of the many freshwater Lagoons at Lagoon Creek


  1. Green Spaces and Stress Relief:

  • Research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology (2014) focused on the influence of urban green environments on stress relief. The study conducted field experiments where participants were exposed to green spaces within urban areas.

  • Findings revealed that spending time in green environments, even in urban settings like parks, led to measurable stress reduction, including lowered blood pressure and decreased levels of perceived stress.

  • The study emphasized the importance of accessible green spaces in urban planning for promoting public health and well-being, particularly in mitigating stress-related cardiovascular risks.

These studies collectively highlight the profound impact of nature on physical well-being, especially in terms of lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health, and reducing stress-related risks. Incorporating regular time in natural environments can be a valuable strategy for enhancing overall health and quality of life.

Wetlands with singapore daisy@ Lagoon creek.


Physical Health Benefits


  1. Lower Blood Pressure: Studies, including one published in Journal of Hypertension (2019), have shown that exposure to natural environments can lead to lower blood pressure levels, reducing the risk of hypertension and related cardiovascular diseases.

  2. Increased Physical Activity: Time spent in nature often involves physical activities like walking, hiking, or cycling, leading to improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and overall fitness.

  3. Boosted Immune System: A review published in Frontiers in Immunology (2021) suggests that exposure to natural environments can enhance immune function, reducing the risk of various illnesses.

  4. Regular Physical Activity: Nature often encourages physical activities such as walking, hiking, cycling, or even gardening. Engaging in these activities regularly can help improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen muscles, and enhance endurance.

  5. Stress Reduction: The calming effect of nature can also contribute to stress reduction, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Lower stress levels are associated with improved heart health and reduced risk of heart disease.


Other Physical Well-being Benefits


  1. Improved Sleep Quality: Time in nature, especially during daylight hours, can help regulate circadian rhythms and improve sleep quality. Adequate sleep is essential for overall health, including immune function and cognitive performance.

  2. Enhanced Respiratory Health: Clean, fresh air in natural environments can benefit respiratory health, especially for individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies. Spending time away from polluted urban areas can lead to clearer breathing and improved lung function.

  3. Vitamin D Absorption: Exposure to sunlight during outdoor activities aids in the production of vitamin D, crucial for bone health, immune function, and mood regulation.

  4. Boosted Immune System: Interacting with natural environments exposes us to diverse microbes, which can strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies and autoimmune disorders.


It seems spending time in nature isn't just a leisure activity; it's a powerful prescription for a healthier mind and body. Incorporating regular nature experiences into our lives can lead to profound improvements in our overall well-being.


Mental Health Benefits

  1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety: A study published in Frontiers in Psychology (2019) found that spending time in natural environments significantly reduces cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, thereby reducing anxiety and improving overall mood.

  2. Improved Cognitive Function: Research from the University of Michigan (2018) suggests that interacting with nature enhances attention span, memory, and creativity. Nature walks or simply spending time outdoors can boost cognitive function and productivity.


Emotional Well-being

  1. Enhanced Happiness: A study published in Scientific Reports (2019) revealed that spending at least 120 minutes per week in nature is associated with higher self-reported happiness and well-being.

  2. Stress Reduction: The Journal of Environmental Psychology (2020) reported that exposure to natural environments, even in urban settings like parks, can reduce feelings of stress and improve emotional resilience.


Vibrant Myrsine variabilis fruit, a great pioneer species with edible fruit. Images Anne Pennington

References

  1. Bratman, G. N., et al. (2019). Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2712.

  2. Berman, M. G., et al. (2018). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 140(3), 300-305.

  3. White, M. P., et al. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and well-being. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 7730.

  4. Kondo, M. C., et al. (2020). Nature and physical activity: A review. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 68, 101389.

  5. Li, Q. (2021). The Impact of Forest Therapy on the Human Immune System. Frontiers in Immunology, 12, 673413.



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