From lowering your blood pressure to increasing your ability to learn, spending time in nature offers profound health benefits that we’re only starting to understand. Already, the U.K.’s National Health System offers “green prescriptions,” and in many Canadian provinces and territories, some healthcare providers can offer prescriptions for nature to patients, recommending a set amount of time outdoors.
This August, you can get a head start on improving your health by taking the Mazda CX-50 Minute Challenge and getting active in nature for 50 minutes, three times a week. In fact, an oft-cited 2019 study from Scientific Reports finds that spending at least two hours a week in nature is associated with good health and well-being.
Here’s what the latest science says about nature’s enhancing effect on every key health marker, from anxiety and sleep to neuroplasticity and overall well-being.
The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, can help reduce stress, and multiple international studies have shown that walking in forest environments offers a range of therapeutic effects on the immune, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems; depression and anxiety; and mental relaxation. It’s no surprise, then, that 87 per cent of Canadians report feeling happier when they’re connected to nature. Similarly, a Statistics Canada study found that children and youth who spend more time outdoors are more physically active and show better psychosocial health.
According to a recent research article from Frontiers in Psychology, spending at least 10 minutes in nature three times a week resulted in stress relief and a drop in cortisol levels for study participants. Time in a natural setting may even help with mood disorders. One Australian study even hypothesized that visits to outdoor green spaces for 30 minutes a week could reduce cases of depression in the country’s population by 7 per cent.
Improved cardiovascular health
Turns out, spending time in nature can be good for your heart as well as your mood. One study of Torontonians found that people who live in neighbourhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets are less likely to have cardiovascular disease. Exposure to green space is also associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular mortality and reductions in diastolic blood pressure and heart rate, according to a review published in Environmental Research.
You’ll breathe better in nature, and some studies have shown that exposure to urban green space is associated with respiratory health and reduced respiratory mortality. Even urban forests offer better air quality than city sites with fewer natural areas, according to research published in Atmospheric Environment.
Believe it or not, spending time in nature isn’t just fun and relaxing. It can also help you be more productive at work by increasing your memory span and improving your creative problem solving skills. You might also become a better, more connected citizen: looking at towering trees can also inspire a sense of awe, and lead to enhanced prosocial helping behaviour and a decreased sense of entitlement, according to one 2015 study from researchers at the University of California.
Spending time in nature during the day can help you sleep better at night. Artificial light has been shown to impact our internal clocks and sleep patterns. In contrast, time spent in natural light can help with everything from insomnia symptoms to resetting your circadian rhythm.
Ready to spend more time in nature? Join the Mazda CX-50 Minute Challenge today and learn more about the new Mazda CX-50, at mazda.ca/en/CX50minutechallenge