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Sure, Netflix is full of great shows and movies to watch, but it can never replace nature in providing a natural and euphoric boost in both physical and mental health. Many studies have showcased the powerful benefits nature can offer, proving that spending time outside slashes the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and stress. [1]

Researchers from the University of East Anglia in the U.K. reviewed data on almost 300 million people from 20 countries, including the U.S., and assessed the effect of nature on people in Australia, Europe, and Japan – where Shinrin yoku, also known as forest bathing, is popular – to reach their conclusions.

In the study, “green space” was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation, as well as urban green spaces like parks and street greenery.

The researchers compared the health of people with little access to green spaces to the health of those with the greatest access to such areas.

A multitude of health benefits was linked to spending time in or near green spaces, though it’s not clear which factors of nature are most responsible for sparking such health benefits.

Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, a Ph.D. student and lead author of the study, said:

“Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn’t been fully understood. It reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.

People living closer to nature also had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol – a marker of stress.”

She suggested that Japan has the “right idea.”

Living near green spaces provides people greater opportunities for physical activity and socializing. Moreover, the researchers said that being outdoors exposes people to a diverse variety of bacteria that boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Inflammation is linked to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Andy Jones, a professor at UEA and study co-author, said:

“We often reach for medication when we’re unwell, but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact.” [2]

Twohig-Bennett said she hopes the findings will encourage people to make the most of green areas, and nudge policymakers and town planters toward creating, cleaning up, and maintaining parks and other green spaces.

Previous studies show that spending time in nature is good for both physical and mental health. A 2016 study published in Nature Scientific Reports shows that walking in a park or other green space for at least 30 minutes not only increases physical activity but lowers the risk of high blood pressure and depression.

A 2015 study found that city dwellers are more likely to be stressed, depressed, and struggle with mental illness. People living in urban areas had a 20% higher risk of anxiety disorders, a 40% greater risk of mood disorders, and were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as people who live in rural areas.

Sources:

[1] Daily Mail

[2] LaboratoryEquipment

Originally published: https://naturalsociety.com/time-outdoors-slashes-risk-diabetes-heart-disease-5810/