You don’t need a doctor to tell you that spending time outside is good for you.
But did you know how good the benefits to your physical and mental health are?
A recent study by Australian researchers looked at the outcomes of data from 28 studies of nature prescriptions and found they were associated with improved blood pressure control, reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, and perhaps not unsurprisingly an increase in the step counts of participants.
And there’s more.
What if you knew that spending time in nature could potentially lower your risk of developing type two diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or psychological distress by up to 30%?
If you’re fortunate enough as a city dweller to live close to green or blue space with a decent tree canopy this is the perfect opportunity to increase your health and wellbeing just by getting outside.
Did you know that one in two adult Australians has a chronic medical condition?
If this is you, or if you live with significant pain or struggle with mental health issues, you’ve probably been told by your doctor multiple times about the importance of exercise, reducing your time sitting, and using technology.
Yada, yada, yada.
Yes, I know you know.
But doing something tangible for your health, like spending time outside doesn’t have to involve exercise, travel, or money. And it definitely isn’t boring. Sitting in your backyard with a garden and birds for company is calming and helps to bolster your mood.
As does gardening.
If you weren’t born with a green thumb (me neither: I’ve been known to kill the indestructible monstera house plant) growing some herbs in a pot and nurturing a couple of pot plants on your balcony all contribute to your nature exposure.
No one knows exactly how much time outside is needed to boost health, but a study by the University of Exeter showed that 120 minutes a week is the minimum threshold to maintain mental well-being.
That’s an average of just over 17 minutes a day.
So how will you get your daily 17 minutes of nature?
- Go for a walk in your local park at lunchtime.
- Find a beautiful spot with a park bench to just to sit and be.
- Take yourself and the family for a picnic on the weekend.
- Explore your local neighbourhood. What hidden green or blue gems can you find?
- Schedule several “nature breaks” during your workday just to get outside.
- Join your local “Parkrun”, a weekly community activity where participants run or walk 5kms. Look it up to find your nearest group. It’s free.
- Volunteer to assist is a community “planting” day.
- Set up your own veggie patch or herb garden.
- Take some cuttings or buy some plants to green up your home.
- Set up your workstation by a window when working from home.
- Start your day with a cuppa outside your home on or an external balcony.
- Buddy up with a friend to schedule a regular walk-in nature.
- Join an outdoor exercise class.
- Meditate in a quiet spot outside where you won’t be disturbed.
- Choose to eat outside with the family (weather permitting!)
The choice of activities is limited only by your imagination.
Lifestyle as medicine is a growing trend as it’s realised that much of our growing burden of chronic disease is preventable and that by re-engaging with those activities that keep us well, everyone benefits.
It’s time to make time in nature prescriptions mainstream.
What type of nature prescription do you find the most beneficial and rewarding?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, trainer, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase.