Most of us know that taking a hike in the woods or a walk in the park makes us feel good. Until I started researching more about the physical health benefits of time spent outdoors, I figured it was just because greenspace makes treehugging me swoon and do embarrassing happy dances – so of course it makes me feel good. But ever since the development and spreading awareness of Japan’s shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”), science has been increasingly backing up all the positive ways in which the body responds to nature.
And now, a team of researchers from the University of East Anglia have studied data from 20 countries – including the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan – involving more than 290 million people to confirm that “living close to nature and spending time outside has significant and wide-ranging health benefits.”
The report concludes that exposure to greenspace – defined as “open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery” – reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure, among other benefits.
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