The average person living in a developed Western nation spends 90% of their time indoors, according to a study published in Frontiers in Sustainable Cities. That number has risen for decades, and doesn’t seem to be improving.
Think about how much of your day is spent indoors. You most likely sleep and work indoors, eat meals indoors, socialize indoors, and spend leisure time indoors. Perhaps you walk outside to run errands or just to relax once per day. Still, that’s an incredibly small amount of your day that’s spent outdoors.
While you don’t need to swap your apartment in Manhattan for a cabin in the woods, there seems to be a correlation between access to nature and wellbeing.
The study published in Frontiers in Sustainable Cities explores the impact that trees have on communities. They found that areas of cities with more trees tend to have less pollution and lower temperatures during the summer.
Trees were also helpful for physical health. Research suggests that spending time in nature, such as taking a walk in the woods, can reduce a stress-related hormone called cortisol. It can also lower blood pressure. Other research suggests that walking among nature can improve your memory and attention.
There seems to be a significant stress-reducing effect of spending time in nature. Perhaps people who live in big cities should seek more time in the woods each week, even if that means taking a walk through Central Park.
Perhaps the most important benefit from spending time in nature is an enhanced feeling of well-being. Your body benefits from taking a hike, but it’s hard to feel the accompanying drop in blood pressure. Those who spend more time in the woods seem to feel better, on average, than someone who never ventures outdoors.
While venturing to the woods takes time, think of the cost to benefit ratio. Unless you travel to a park that requires an entrance fee, it’s free to take a hike. The benefits include physical and mental health, along with a mood boost. Plus, you get a little workout. Just remember to bring your water and bug spray!