Ric Cullinane outdoors

Two hours a week in nature is good for your health

Walking Access Commission Chief Executive Ric Cullinane shares another reason for us to access the outdoors:

Nature Magazine recently published a study showing that spending two hours each week in nature (the big greenish thing rather than the magazine) is good for your health and wellbeing*.

The study by scientists from the University of Exeter was a nice affirmation of something we already instinctively knew – we feel better if we put down our phone, walk outside along a track and sit under a tree for a while.

The authors of the report studied 20,000 adults in England, measuring the amount of time they spent in nature and their self-reported health and well-being.

They found that “individuals who reported spending ≥120 mins in nature last week had consistently higher levels of both health and well-being than those who reported no exposure”.

They also found that the association between spending two hours in nature and health and well-being was similar in strength to  the association between health, well-being and: (a) living in an area of low vs. high deprivation; (b) being employed in a high vs. low social grade occupation; and (c) achieving vs. not achieving recommended levels of physical activity in the last week.

Those are three things that we know are central to people’s health and well-being, so this suggests that our connection with nature is also important.

To get these benefits, people need good access to the outdoors. The Walking Access Commission’s mission to create free, certain, enduring and practical outdoor access is not just about having somewhere beautiful to play and explore - although that is important. It’s not just about protecting our heritage or providing economic opportunities to our regions - again also both important.  It is about connecting us to the whenua in a way that restores and protects our wellbeing.

If you are looking for your weekly dose of the outdoors check out our Find My Adventure database for tracks near you. Each month we are adding more trails. Eventually we hope it will be a complete database of all the walks, cycle trails and horse rides in Aotearoa. You can now share your own photos and reviews of tracks on Find My Adventure, letting us know about your blossoming good health and wellbeing.

* White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3