Dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered, scientists say
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Dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered, scientists say

People who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure, and will have better mental health, according to a new study by Australian and UK environmental scientists.

The research led by The University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) suggests people might need a minimum “dose of nature”, and people could improve their health if they visited their city green spaces for just 30 minutes a week.

Dr Danielle Shanahan of CEED and UQ said the Nature Scientific Reports study showed that the health benefits that parks offered included a lower risk of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety and depression.

“If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week, there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure,” she said.

“Given that the societal costs of depression alone in Australia are estimated at AUD$12.6 billion per annum, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense.

“Governments also spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year creating and maintaining parks.”

Associate Professor Richard Fuller of CEED and UQ said the new research could transform the way we think about our urban parks.

“We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits,” he said.

“We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits.”

So how can we encourage people to spend more time in green space?

“We need more support and encouragement of community activities in natural spaces,” Dr Danielle Shanahan said.

“Our children especially benefit from spending more time outdoors. Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened environmental awareness as adults than those who don’t.”

The research team also included scientists from UQ’s School of Public Health, University of Exeter, and CSIRO’s Land & Water Flagship.

The Fuller Lab website is at http://www.fullerlab.org

To learn more about study and research programs involving the natural environment visit UQ’s School of Biological Sciences online.