Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Six Hundred Seconds to a Better You

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Six Hundred Seconds to a Better You

Article excerpt

Much has been said about people, particularly children, spending too much time in front of electronic screens and the negative health consequences associated with such activity. We are told to put down the remote, put away our smartphones, get off the couch and get outside. This suggestion, more often a call-to-action, is made with the proposition that the outdoors will make us healthier beings. And in fact, this can be true. Many studies have concluded that nature promotes health and wellness. Beginning with environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich's 1984 study of hospital patients' view of outdoor gardens and the positive correlation to reduced complaints of discomfort and shortened recovery time, the health benefits of nature have been demonstrated time after time. NRPA's park prescription model of physician-prescribed outdoor recreation is built on the knowledge that an individual's health and well-being can benefit from time spent outdoors.

But, how much time do we need to spend outdoors to benefit from it? And, is all time spent outdoors equal? Thanks to recent research by Mary-Carol Hunter, associate professor of natural resources at the University of Michigan, we have insight into the answers to these questions. Studying the attributes that make an outdoor place more pleasing for human interaction, Hunter's study, "Designer's Approach for Scene Selection in Tests of Preference and Restoration Along a Continuum of Natural to Manmade Environments," published in Frontiers in Psychology, August 19, 2015, draws findings important to parks and recreation, families and individuals alike.

How Much Time?

Ten minutes, two to three times per week: This is the amount of time in a natural setting necessary to trigger the healthy benefits associated with being outdoors. The research findings indicate that people who achieve this amount of outdoor time have less stress, increased ability to focus and improved mood and energy levels. This relatively modest investment of time is an opportunity to ensure participants within your recreation programs get outside. Many of your programs, for preschoolers to seniors, can include a walk through the park several times each week, snack served outside or reading time in the shade of a tree.

Just being outside isn't necessarily enough. Generally, the benefits of time spent outdoors are more closely associated with natural surroundings rather than simply being outside. While Hunter's study found that participants derived positive benefits from a variety of settings, from urban green space to private backyards, the specific outdoor features that are attributed to a beneficial response in health have yet to be defined. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.