Time spent in nature can boost physical and mental well-being

New York, New York, USA - July 10, 2011: People enjoying a beautiful summer day in Sheep Meadow, Central Park. The sun shines through the trees in the late afternoon. Sheep Meadow is a popular place for games, picnics and general relaxation. It gets its name from the fact that sheep were actually kept here up through the early part of the 20th century. The Manhattan skyline can be seen in the background.

January 2, 2024—Spending time outdoors in green spaces has been linked with myriad physical and mental health benefits, including lower mortality, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Heather Eliassen.

Eliassen, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, was among the experts quoted in a December 14 Pop Sugar article about the health impacts of nature and being outside. She explained that exposure to green space has been linked to better sleep, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of chronic disease—likely because people who spend more time in green spaces also report higher levels of exercise.

“Green spaces can be destinations for walking or bicycling, as well as space for play, and among children, green-space exposure is linked to more playtime and less screen time,” Eliassen told Pop Sugar.

She also said that spending time in nature has been linked to better mental health and a decreased risk of psychiatric disorders among adults and children.

“[Time spent outdoors] provides a combination of stimulation of different senses and a break from typical overstimulation from urban environments,” she said. “Exposure to green space results in mental restoration and increased positive emotions and decreased anxiety and rumination. Improved mindfulness can result from exposure to green space as well.”

Eliassen noted that even city dwellers and people who work indoors can pursue and reap the health benefits of the natural world. Spending time in urban spaces like parks and gardens has been linked with improved health, according to Eliassen and other experts quoted in the article.

“If there are some green spaces a short or medium distance from home, try walking or biking to the green space to get the benefits of exercise while getting [there],” she said. “Or, find green space you could incorporate into your commute to or from school or work.”

Read the Pop Sugar article: Being Outside Is Good For Your Body and Mind — Here’s Why

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