Nature enthusiasts are known to say that spending time in the great outdoors has a positive effect on their mental and physical well-being. Such an outlook is more than mere speculation, as it turns out spending time in nature provides a host of health benefits that might surprise even the most devoted outdoors enthusiasts.
Nature and Cognitive Health
A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias found that engaged persons with dementia in horticultural therapy-based (HT-based) programming solicited higher rates of participation than traditional activities (TA) programming. In addition, a separate 2013 study in the journal Dementia found that exposure to a therapeutic garden had a positive impact on quality of life for people with dementia. And it’s not just dementia patients who can experience the cognitive benefits of time spent in nature, as the Hagley Museum and Library reports that numerous studies have found exposure to nature improves cognitive function.
Nature and Vitamin D
The potential health benefits of vitamin D are increasingly drawing the attention of medical researchers, and for good reason. According to the Harvard Medical School, recent research has suggested that vitamin D may offer added protection against conditions such as osteoporosis, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and depression. Exposure to sunshine can help the body generate vitamin D, thus providing further reason to spend time in nature.
Nature and Overall Well-Being
Given the aforementioned health benefits related to spending time in nature, it’s easy for even non-scientists to conclude that being outdoors has a profound impact on overall well-being. But non-scientists can rest assured that recent research has confirmed such conclusions. A 2019 study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that individuals who spent at least 120 minutes a week in nature were significantly more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who spent less time outdoors. Though the authors of the study cautioned that the exposure-response relationship was under-researched, and therefore likely needed to be studied more extensively, in the meantime individuals, after a consultation with their physicians and confirmation that it’s safe to get out more often, can aspire to spend at least 120 minutes in nature each week. The results may speak for themselves.
Nature has a lot to offer, and the benefits of spending more time outdoors may be even more significant than people recognize.