Just 20 minutes a day in urban nature lowers stress levels

By Australian Geographic 4 April 2019
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Make the time!

COULD YOU SQUEEZE in 20 minutes of nature each day? Well, research shows it would make a difference to your stress levels.

Health practitioners have known about the positive impacts of spending time in nature for some time, but exactly how long was yet to established.

A new study, published in Frontiers in Psychology today, is the first to establish the most effective dose of urban nature.

Study participants were asked to take 10 minutes or more three times a week over an eight-week period.

The researchers then tested the participants saliva to determine the level of cortisol (a stress hormone) once every two weeks.

“Participants were free to choose the time of day, duration and the place of their nature experience, which was defined as anywhere outside that in the opinion of the participant, made them feel like they’ve interacted with nature,” says lead author of the study Dr MaryCarol Hunter, from the University of Michigan.

“There were a few constraints to minimise factors known to influence stress: take the ‘nature pill’ in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading.”

MaryCarol hopes that the findings will be harnessed by health industries.

“Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription,” she says.

“It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels in the context of normal daily life. It breaks new ground by addressing some of the complexities of measuring an effective nature dose.”