Spending more time outdoors boosts people’s health and productivity, study finds

People who spend more time outside are healthier,  more energetic, and more productive than those who do not, research has revealed. A study of 2,000 adults found that those spending 20 hours or more, per week, in a green or natural space were 41 percent more productive on an average day, than those spending less than 30 minutes a week outside.

And three-quarters of all adults claim time in nature or green spaces gives them a boost of happiness that keeps them going all day.

Indeed, this feeling is experienced by 92 percent of those who spend the most time outside – while 79 percent said it also makes them feel healthier, and more energetic.

A clearer mind (44 percent), feeling less stressed (38 percent), and sleeping more soundly (28 percent), are also among the top health benefits people reported from getting outdoors – as well as feeling better physically and mentally (70 percent).

Whereas those spending more time than they would like indoors often feel sluggish (37 percent), tired (25 percent), and isolated (16 percent).

The study was commissioned by the Greener Communities Fund – a partnership between Hubbub, NHS Charities Together, and Starbucks.

It follows a 2022 study by charity, The National Academy for Social Prescribing, which found spending time in nature can benefit long-term health and wellbeing.

Furthermore, 2020 research by Public Health England found it can even help reduce the pressure on the NHS.

The more time we spend in nature, the more we all benefit

Louise McCathie, NHS Charities Together fundraising director

Louise McCathie, director of fundraising at NHS Charities Together, said: “People not only feel better when they visit outside spaces, but they work and play better, too.

“And as well as helping us connect with the natural world, outdoor experiences provide a much-needed chance to decompress – and can make a huge difference to our overall health.

“The Greener Communities Fund is a new, multi-million pound fund, helping local NHS charities to create more green spaces across the UK – and improve the nation’s health in the process.

“By establishing new community spaces and increasing access to nature, we’re hoping to boost the wellbeing of the UK public, while helping our environment and the NHS at the same time.”

The study also found that as well as feeling healthier, those who spend more time in nature are more likely to adopt behaviours that are good for the environment.

These behaviours include eating a more plant-based diet (18 percent), choosing to walk or cycle rather than driving (31 percent), and recycling more (55 percent).

And more than half (54 percent) said their attitude to the environment has been influenced by spending time outdoors – as 13 percent have even started picking up litter on their walks.

Two-thirds said spending time outdoors encourages them to take better care of their wellbeing, with 46 percent feeling relaxed, and 42 percent being calmer and brighter.

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The study, carried out via OnePoll, also revealed the best things about being outside include fresh air (64 percent), the scenery (47 percent), and seeing animals and wildlife (46 percent).

Noticing the change in seasons was a favourite outdoor pastime, for 35 percent, while 11 percent loved wrapping up in a warm coat.

Yet, despite enjoying being outside, one in ten said that lack of access to green areas and attractive parks was a top barrier to spending more time in nature.

And 19 percent felt they didn’t have time to head outside more often – while eight percent didn’t feel safe enough.

But of those who spend the least time outdoors each week, one in three (34 percent) said having better access to an area of natural beauty would encourage them to spend more time in the open air.

Greener Communities Fund spokeswoman, Louise McCathie, added: “The more time we spend in nature, the more we all benefit – and it’s so important that everyone gets that chance.

“Our hope is that this fund will give everyone better access to outdoor spaces, and especially those who have limited access currently. That includes hospital staff, patients, and visitors, people living in urban areas, and some community groups.

“Funded by proceeds from the Starbucks 5p cup charge, new spaces will soon be cropping up across the UK – we can’t wait for everyone to be able to enjoy them.”

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