A study, performed by Australian and UK environmental scientists, has found that spending 30 minutes per week in nature, even at a local park, can significantly reduce your blood pressure and chance of heart attack.
Led by the University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), it was found that people may need a minimum “dose of nature." Spending a small amount of time there can reduce risks 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,” said UQ CEED researcher Dr Danielle Shanahan, involved in the study.
“Given that the societal costs of depression alone in Australia are estimated at $A12.6 billion a year, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense,” she said.
Associate Professor Richard Fuller, also a UQ CEED researcher on the study, said the research could further enhance the value of 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.”
Dr Shanahan said 40 per cent of Brisbane residents did not visit an urban park in a typical week.
“So how can we encourage people to spend more time in green space?” asked Shanahan, explaining "we need more support and encouragement of community activities in natural spaces.
“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.”