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Time to Get Back to Nature - Scientists Find How Much Nature You Need Per Day to Reduce Stress

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    It Doesn't Take a Whole Lot of Time


    Just 20 minutes out of your day to stroll, or sitting in a place where you feel in contact with nature, will reduce your stress hormones level significantly. Up until this point, we all knew that being outside is healthy and important, but up until this point, there was no exact measurement to how much, for how long, and where. 

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    Why Should We Reduce Stress?


    Besides the obvious "It feels like crap", consistently elevated stress levels can do a number on your body as well. Increased blood pressure, stomach pain, and many other symptoms can develop in a chronic way, if you don't address the causes of your stress, and actively work to reduce it in your daily life. This might be a pretty good solution.

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    The Study

    Nature reserve

    Over the course of 8 weeks, participants were tasked with spending at least 10 minutes outside for no less than 3 times per week. Researchers examined cortisol levels, via saliva samples taken before and after engaging in outdoor strolling. 

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    Outdoor recreation

    Participants in the study were allowed to choose the time of day, the duration, and where to get their "nature pill", as long as it "made them feel they have interacted with nature." There were several parameters to keep it controllable, for example, keep the time in nature to the daytime, no aerobic exercise, and while in that environment, to avoid the use of any electronics, or reading.

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    How Does Being Outside Effect Us?

    People in nature

    20 minutes outside was found to have a significant effect on reducing cortisol levels. But even more interesting, is that if extended between 20 to 30 minutes of activity outdoors, the effects are magnified exponentially, and the rate of cortisol levels dropping was highest. Going beyond that point did yield additional reductions in cortisol levels, but the results suffered from significant diminishing gains after the 30 minute mark.

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    Is It That Simple?


    It may be easy for someone in Suburbia to find a place to relax in nature, but as the urban sprawl extends ever outward, open air natural spaces are few and far between. But luckily for city slickers, as long as you "feel" like you are in nature, it works just as well. So head over to the closest park, and stop making excuses.

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    What Does This Mean

    People in nature

    The study leader, Dr. Mary Carol Hunter at the University of Michigan, believes that this may be a solution given to many patients suffering from anxiety and depression, which is a known tool for those people to find some relief. But the studies conclusive findings may help the "prescription" of 'nature pills' become much more mainstream, before traditional narcotic methods are investigated.

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    How Does This Help Medical Professionals?


    This study finally began to narrow how long we need to be outside. With this evidence-based standard, doctors can actually prescribe a "nature pill" according to their patients symptoms, and their severity, as well as their ability to get out to such places in their daily lives. 


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