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People might need a minimum dose of nature: expert

Telling someone with high blood pressure to take a walk in a park might raise a brow or two, but recent research from Australian and UK environmental scientists suggests it may help them.

The study, from the University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), found that people who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who don’t.

UQ and CEED researcher Dr Danielle Shanahan said parks offered health benefits including reduced risks of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety and depression.

Shanahan said if everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine per cent fewer cases of high blood pressure.

“We know that spending time in natural environments can reduce stress levels, in part because nature is simply undemanding and gives us a chance to just be,” she said. “That’s a pretty rare commodity in today’s lifestyle and that stress reduction can, of course, help us lower our blood pressure and improve our mental health.”

UQ and CEED researcher associate professor Richard Fuller said: “We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits.

“We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits.”

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