Can nature help you live longer?

 

Green scenery could help people live longer. According to a study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, women living within 250 meters of greenery experienced a 12 percent lower death rate than women who didn't live near abundant plant life.

This evidence suggests that people can improve their personal health by creating and living in green, natural spaces.

How does nature impact personal health?

Most people have experienced calming, positive experiences in nature. Idyllic scenes of trees, lakes and rivers have inspired countless novelists and poets. In other words, there's a large body of anecdotal evidence that nature can make people feel better. But is there any science to back up those stories?

"People have been discussing their profound experiences in nature for the last several hundred years—from Thoreau to John Muir to many other writers," University of Utah researcher David Strayer told Jill Suttie of University of California, Berkeley. "Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature."

One way that nature impacts health is by reducing fatigue levels and increasing our ability to solve complex puzzles. Ruth Ann Atchley, a researcher from the University of Kansas, found that hikers on a four-day backpacking trip performed 50 percent better at solving creative puzzles than those who were waiting to go on the same trip.

Spending time in nature has also been shown to improve a person's mood. Stress and anxiety can have a negative effect on one's health. Relieving those feelings could possibly contribute to better health.

Spending time in nature can improve cognitive function.Spending time in nature can improve cognitive function.

What doctors can do with this information

Physicians should encourage their patients to disconnect from their devices and spend some quality time outdoors. In city settings, patients can visit parks and nature reserves to recharge their batteries throughout the week. Weekend trips into the forest are another good idea.

Patients who frequently experience feelings of stress, anxiety and depression may benefit the most. Even a few moments spent among greenery can produce immediate effects. Over a lifetime, exposure to green nature may just increase patient longevity.

Spending time in nature should be a part of anyone's health regimen. Even city dwellers should take the time to find a bit of green among the gray hustle and bustle of metropolitan life.

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