According to a recent large-scale study, people who spend at least two hours — or 120 minutes — a week in nature report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don’t spend any time in nature.
Additionally, no benefits were found for people who spent less than 120 minutes in nature.
Based on the data from almost 20,000 people in England, researchers at the University of Exeter found that:
- It didn’t matter if the 120 minutes happened in a single visit or spread out over several shorter visits throughout the week.
- The 120-minute threshold applied regardless of gender, age, occupation, ethnicity, financial situation, or the presence of long-term illnesses or disabilities.
- Even local urban greenspaces can be beneficial, as the majority of the nature visits involved in the study took place within two miles of a participant’s home.
So, why is spending time in nature good for our health and mental wellbeing? According to research co-author Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden:
There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and wellbeing, similar to guidelines for weekly physical.
Now, let’s start getting that 120 minutes a week!
You can clock 120 minutes a week if you spend approximately 20 minutes a day each day. Some ideas include:
- Take a walk in your local park, or explore a new-to-you park in a neighboring town. Bonus points (points, not minutes!) for bringing Fido along for some exercise!
- Move your workouts outdoors. Walking, running, yoga — lace up your sneakers or grab your mat and head outside.
- Become a clean air commuter. Of course, this depends on how far from work you live and what the commute would actually entail, but if you’re within walking or biking distance to your job, try it out.
- On that note, work or study outside. If you work from home or are able to telecommute a few times a week, or if you’re in school, take your laptop or books to a park, your backyard, or an outdoor bench on your college campus.
- Tend your garden. Maybe you have space for a backyard garden or a smaller urban garden, or your neighborhood has a community garden (if not, start one!).
Few Times a Week
When you can’t commit to every day or things come up (it happens), shoot for an hour a day two times a week.
- Go for a hike or bike ride.
- Read a book at the park.
- Round up some friends and build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
Once a Week
Life can get busy, but you don’t have to let it affect the mental health benefits nature can bring. You can easily get your weekly 120 minutes in one weekend activity.
- Go camping. Bonus points for tent camping, but if you head out for a weekend adventure in a cabin make sure you get in some nice hikes, fishing, and other exploration.
- Have a bonfire with family and friends.
- Take a boat ride or go paddling or canoeing.
- Carve out an afternoon for a picnic.
- Go to an outdoor concert.
Of course these are just a small handful of ideas! For more, check out the REI Find Your Path quiz to see personalized ideas on how you can spend more time outdoors.
What’s YOUR favorite way to spend time in nature?