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Study: Visiting Parks for 30 Minutes Each Week Could Reduce Risk of High Blood Pressure, Poor Mental Health

Jun 26, 2016 09:43 AM EDT
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Dose of Nature is Just What the Doctor Ordered
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(Photo : The University of Queensland)

A new study led by The University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) suggests that visiting parks and other green spaces could potentially reduce risk of developing high blood pressure and poor mental health.

Previous studies have discovered a connection between living near green spaces and longer life. However, there has been no guidance on how frequent a person should visit and engage in nature to have the best health outcomes.

The study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, revealed that people who tend to visit green spaces for 30 minutes or more each week have lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, reducing population prevalence of these illnesses by up to seven percent and nine percent respectively.

"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," explained Associate Professor Richard Fuller, a researcher for UQ CEED, in a statement. "We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits."

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1,538 residents of Brisbane City, Australia. Each resident was asked about four health outcomes. These health outcomes include experiencing mild or worse depression, whether they are under treatment for high blood pressure, their perceptions of social cohesion and number of days on which physical exercise occurs for more than 30 minutes during the survey week.

The researchers used a nature dose framework to examine the associations between the duration, frequency and intensity of exposure to nature and health in their chosen population.

Researchers then discovered that people who made long visits to green spaces had lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, and those who visited more frequently had greater social cohesion. Beside from depression and high blood pressure, frequent visits in green spaces may also prevent heart disease, anxiety and stress.

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