Turns out mom was right when she encouraged us to play outside instead of watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in one sitting. (Not that we’ve ever done such a thing).
Summary of benefits
According to a new study published by a peer-reviewed journal called Environmental Health Perspectives, the optimal amount of time to spend in nature is two hours.
Doing so can lead to:
- Better sleep
- Improved mental health
- Reduced aggression
- Reduced ADHD symptoms
- Improved immune function
- Improvements in asthma/allergies
- Better eyesight
- Improved pain control
How was this study performed? Researchers analyzed a government survey that asked 20,000 adults in the U.K. to track all activities for a week. Questioning took place in the homes of the participants, where the interviewers asked to recount how much time, if any, participants had spent outside in each of the previous seven days.
Once this data was collected, interviewers randomly selected one of the nature events described and asked for greater detail about the length of the visit, the method of transportation, the relationship to other people there (if others attended), and the activities actually performed during this time.
The purpose of randomly selecting these questions was to gather information about the sort of “typical” outdoor activity these participants engaged in, as opposed to the exciting highlight activities.
With this information, the researchers created a profile of how much time each participant spent outside in the seven days leading up to the survey.
How did the study determine these better health outcomes?
The data pointed to the fact that participants who spent between 200 to 300 minutes outside had better health outcomes than those who didn’t, regardless of gender, age, social class, and any other measurable distinction.
However, these benefits plateaued in this range — those who spent more than five hours outside per week were no better off than those who fell into the aforementioned range.
On the flip side of this spectrum, participants who spent fewer than 200 minutes in nature during that week were actually no more likely to report good health than those who were not exposed to nature at all.
According to an article written by Matthew White, one of the researchers on this study, even people who were in poor health for an extended period of time were more likely to “report better health and well-being if they spend 120 minutes a week in nature.”