Study shows time outdoors, away from technology, can boost creativity

According to a study published on 13 June 2019 in the Nature Scientific Reports, time spent outdoors in nature and away from electronic devices, is found to greatly enhance an individual’s well being.

While spending less time didn’t yield significant results, a minimum of 120 minutes a week has been found to be highly effective. It did not matter how the 120 minutes were achieved, be it one long session or multiple short ones.

The study took a sample of 20,000 people from all parts of England, and the survey was conducted throughout the year to ensure the results are not biased based on season and geography. The survey is a part of the UK government’s National Statistics, and the data is used by the government to develop physical activity guidelines for children and adults.

This research has particularly proven to be productive in urbanized areas of high income groups. Adults who were newly exposed to spending more time with nature, have been identified with lower probabilities of the following diseases

  • cardiovascular diseases,
  • obesity,
  • diabetes,
  • asthma hospitalisation,
  • mental distress and
  • mortality.

In children, lower risks of obesity and myopia were associated with the research.

The survey, however, speaks little about the quality of the natural environment that people were exposed to. Another point to note is that the data about the time spent in their own gardens has been excluded from the research. These issues will need further in depth research in the upcoming surveys.

It could also be the physical activity that might be indirectly related to the results of this survey. People who are physically active, generally tend to move out more and go outdoors which impacts their quality of lives. However, there have been other studies that demonstrate the benefits of being with nature, even if without any physical activity. For instance, this research from NCBI says that exercising outdoors comes with an array of benefits as compared to doing the same exercises inside home.

Overall, be it an evening stroll along the lakeside, or a weekend hike, spending two hours or more a week with nature has significant impacts on our lives.

This research does seem timely given recent dramatic shifts that indicate as we become more plugged in, we also become more tuned out from the natural world.

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