Prescribed time in nature linked to improvements in anxiety, depression and blood pressure

The Guardian – By Donna Lu – April 04, 2023

Researchers say there are interlinked benefits across mental and physical health from prescribed time in green spaces or near bodies of water.

Prescriptions encouraging people to spend more time in nature are linked to reduced blood pressure and improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms, according to new analysis.

Doctors sometimes use nature-based social prescription programs – sometimes described as “green prescriptions” or “blue prescriptions” – to advise patients to spend time in green spaces or near bodies of water.

Australian academics reviewed existing research into the impacts and effectiveness of nature prescribing in different countries, looking at 92 studies in which participants spent time engaging with nature in various capacities.

The most frequently recommended activities were walking in nature (46% of all programs), farming or gardening (29%) and mindfulness exercises (29%).

Common settings were forests and nature reserves (35% of prescriptions), parks (28%) and community or home gardens (16%).

A meta-analysis of data in 28 of the studies that measured similar outcomes found that nature prescriptions were associated with better blood pressure control, improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms, and an increase in average daily step counts among participants.

Prof Thomas Astell-Burt, a population health expert at the University of Wollongong who co-led the research, said the improvements were interlinked. “You go out for a walk out in a green space which helps with fitness – that also helps to improve your mental health, reduces loneliness, improves sleep, and can also help to reduce one’s blood pressure. These outcomes aren’t independent of each other.

“It’s good for mental health, good for physical health [and] good for keeping active.”

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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