Take the time to be happier and healthier in nature

Take the time to be happier and healthier in nature

2.5 minute read

It seems mothers were right along: spending time outside in nature is good for you, research confirms.

A recent study from the UK government asked nearly 20,000 people to track their activity for a week. It found that those who spent a minimum of 120 minutes per week among natural environments — think parks, nature reserves, outdoor non-cityscapes — reported better health and well-being. The study found that 200-300 minutes outside created the peak effect of happiness and a sense of well-being.

How much time is enough?

As the Fast Company reports, the study is one of the first to try and quantify how much time – especially those living in more urban environments – one should spend outside to reach optimal health benefits. The study is also quick to point out that being outside does not mean walking to a shop or walking home from the train station.

What the researchers were after were what they called, "Open spaces in and around towns and cities including parks, canals, and nature areas; the coast and beaches; and the countryside including farmland, woodland, hills and rivers."

What are the health benefits?

Living in a connected world has benefits, but it has also made us – by and large – a more depressed and anxious group. Spending more time in nature can help to reduce mental stresses, lower blood pressure, and boost creativity. In fact, the NHS in Scotland is now prescribing patients to seek out nature as a way to deal with stress-related issues.

Health and retirement

Health also has a significant bearing on retirement. The Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement (ACLR) cautions that declining health in older age can frustrate even the best laid retirement plans. The two most often cited retirement concerns among people globally are declining physical health (50 percent) and running out of money (40 percent), according to findings from Aegon's research.

Faced with these dual concerns, it is crucial that people prepare for all eventualities and develop more holistic plans for retirement that include adapting healthy lifestyles.

The point is emphasized in a new whitepaper published on June 19 by the ACLR and Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing. Authors David van Bodegom, Frank Schalkwijk and Mike Mansfield write that health can enable or impede aspirations for retirement and quickly dash long-held dreams of how people would fill their retirement days.

Therefore, the whitepaper urges that people be encouraged to think about their health rather than concentrate solely on financial matters as part of realistic planning for life in retirement.

Download the reports