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People who head outdoors more often are healthier, happier

A couple holding hands walks in a park between flowering trees. Have you had a splash of nature this week?

July 1, 2019— Just two hours every week spent soaking up nature might help you be healthier and happier, a new study suggests.

Past research has shown that time outside in nature boosts physical and mental health. But until now, it wasn't clear how long you needed to be outdoors to see the benefits.

To find out, researchers looked at survey data from nearly 20,000 people in England. The people answered questions about their health and how much time they spent in places like parks, woods and beaches in the past week.

The study found that those who spent at least two hours a week taking in nature were far more likely to report good health than those who didn't get outside at all. They also had a greater sense of well-being.

And while time in nature can't replace exercise, the overall effect on a person's sense of well-being was similar to getting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Finding the sweet spot

Spending less than 120 minutes in nature per week didn't appear to have any effect on health. And the benefits seemed to max out after about 200 to 300 minutes.

Another key finding: It didn't seem to make a difference if participants enjoyed nature in a single outing or spread out over the week. All that mattered healthwise was the total amount of time spent outdoors.

While the study couldn't demonstrate cause and effect, it did seem clear that it wasn't simply a case of healthier people being more likely to visit nature. Even people with a chronic illnesses or disabilities reported health benefits after reaching the two-hour benchmark.

The study appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.

Nature is waiting

Whether you have access to the woods, a beach or a city park, walking is great way to get the benefits of both nature and exercise. Check out these tips to start a walking program.

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