NAT­U­RAL THER­APY: the ben­e­fits of na­ture

It’s of­fi­cial – spend­ing time in na­ture im­proves sleep and re­duces chronic health prob­lems.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents -

Grow­ing up in Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches area, our lives re­volved around the beach, small sail­ing boats and the bush. We would build cubby houses in the bush­land near our house, climb trees, track the habits of the lo­cal wildlife, like kook­abur­ras and koalas, spend time at the beach or wan­der down to Pittwa­ter to go shing. Grow­ing up like that, I in­stinc­tively sensed the need for con­nec­tion with na­ture and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, and its im­pact on my well­be­ing.

As a doc­tor, it is help­ful to have sub­stan­tial sci­enti c ev­i­dence to back up one’s in­stincts. So it was very ex­cit­ing to see a new re­search re­port say­ing that, for the sake of our health, we all ought to be spend­ing a lot more time out­doors, in nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments. Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of East Anglia ex­am­ined data from over 140 stud­ies in­volv­ing more than 290 mil­lion peo­ple. Ac­cord­ing to the study, ex­po­sure to greenspace in­creases your du­ra­tion of sleep, and re­duces the risk of a range of chronic health prob­lems, specif­i­cally:

• Type 2 di­a­betes

• car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease

• pre­ma­ture death

• preterm birth

• stress

• high blood pres­sure

• re­duced cor­ti­sol (stress marker)

Green good­ness

Greenspace can mean open, un­de­vel­oped land with nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion like our Na­tional Parks. It can also in­clude ur­ban parks, gar­dens and street green­ery.

One fas­ci­nat­ing Cana­dian study in the city of Toronto found that adding 10 trees to a city block could im­prove how healthy a per­son feels in ways, “com­pa­ra­ble to an in­crease in per­sonal in­come of $10,000 or be­ing seven years younger”.

In­deed, stud­ies have shown that ex­po­sure to nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments can re­duce the symp­toms of anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, and help chil­dren with at­ten­tion de cits to con­cen­trate and learn.

An­other re­cent epi­demi­o­log­i­cal study has shown that peo­ple who move to greener ur­ban ar­eas bene t from sus­tained im­prove­ments in their men­tal health.

On the other hand, ad­verse changes to your sur­round­ings can have the op­po­site ef­fect. Re­searchers in Scot­land eval­u­ated the ef­fects of ex­ten­sion to the M74 mo­tor­way when it was opened in Glas­gow on the health of lo­cal res­i­dents, and found that it re­duced their phys­i­cal and men­tal well­be­ing.

As cities be­come more densely pop­u­lated, more peo­ple are spend­ing less time ex­posed to nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments. In our busy lives, par­tic­u­larly in cities, it is com­mon to see peo­ple who live al­most en­tirely in­doors, work­ing in air con­di­tioned of ces or re­tail malls and ex­er­cis­ing in­doors in gyms with­out even an open win­dow.

Chil­dren and young peo­ple are spend­ing less time out­doors climb­ing trees or nd­ing tad­poles in the lo­cal creek, and re­plac­ing that with sit­ting in­side, play­ing video games, watch­ing tele­vi­sion or man­ag­ing their so­cial me­dia pro les.

The “No Child Left In­side” move­ment in the US pro­posed that more funds be pro­vided to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to en­gage in learn­ing out­side the class­room, en­hanc­ing their well­be­ing and im­prov­ing their en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy. That is worth us ex­plor­ing in Aus­tralia.

Ob­vi­ously liv­ing with a lot of greenspace nearby is ideal and con­ve­nient. That is why the plan­ning of cities, towns and sub­urbs with parks, trees and bush­land, beaches, and lakes and preser­va­tion of nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments is so im­por­tant to pub­lic health.

If you don’t live close to na­ture or greenspace, you may need to re­con­sider where you live if that is pos­si­ble for you, or make sure you

nd your way to greenspace reg­u­larly in your day. If you don’t have a gar­den at home, nd parks or bush­walks near your home.

Next time I get out my pre­scrip­tion pad, I will think of writ­ing a pre­scrip­tion for time in the great green out­doors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.