Can the outdoors help our health? WWF’s Elisabeth George reflects on nature and well-being | Stories


Time spent in nature can affect our physical health, too. Evidence points to positive associations between nature and improved blood pressure, heart rate, and physical activity.2 Experimental research has even shown positive cognitive benefits associated with spending time in nature.3 And in March 2022, WWF released a report specific to the impact of forests on human health. 

The report looks at five categories of health, including noncommunicable diseases like cancer and diabetes, environmental exposure, food and nutrition, physical hazards, and infectious diseases. The evidence clearly demonstrates the positive impact forests have on human health. In short, they provide, prevent, and heal.

Considering the numerous health benefits that nature offers, it is critical to note that that not everyone has equal access to nature. A 2020 analysis indicates that residents of low-income communities, communities of color, and families with children have less access to nature.4 Solutions require creative collaboration between government, local community groups, and the private sector to ensure that the benefits of nature can be enjoyed by many, not just a select few. 

Perhaps the best news is that you don’t need to rearrange your entire life’s schedule to reap the benefits of nature. A recent UK study shows that two hours a week is all you need to improve your health and well-being.5 Most notably, this study examined a diverse group of 20,000 people from a range of ethnicities, health conditions, and occupations. The key takeaway is that no matter the circumstances of your life, two hours of nature per week can benefit everyone.      

So, whether you spend those two hours hiking through the woods, sitting on a riverbank, gardening, or enjoying your lunch in a tree-lined city park, nature’s offering is waiting.  

Elisabeth George is a communications specialist at WWF.

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