Take A Nature Pill

Take A Nature Pill

We’ve previously discussed the growing body of research that spending time in nature has a variety of substantial health benefits. In a recent post we summarize some very interesting research performed in the UK that found benefits for cardiovascular health, reduced preterm birth, better sleep and much more. You can follow this link to see that research.

New research from the University of Michigan has taken that research to the logical next step. Researchers MaryCarol R. Hunter, PhD, Associate Professor, Brenda W. Gillespie, PhD, Associate Professor of Biostatistics and doctoral candidate Sophie Yu Pu Chen, set out to determine the frequency and duration of “nature experiences” required to achieve measurable improvement. Some background science is necessary. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the body by the adrenal glands. Among its functions is to increase blood sugar in response to stress. It can also work to suppress the immune system. Like many natural functions, too much cortisol is associated with health issues. Too frequent cortisol responses are linked to several illnesses. One of the markers that the University of Michigan researchers tracked was cortisol levels before and after a “nature experience”. (They measured the cortisol level in saliva.)

They found that participants who had a “nature experience” three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time had a significant 21% drop in cortisol. Given this meaningful improvement, they coined the term “nature pill” and recommend physicians consider it as a treatment option. From the study:

The results provide a validated starting point for health care practitioners prescribing a nature pill to those in their care.

And:

The efficiency of a nature pill per time expended was greatest between 20 and 30 minutes.

In other words, if you spend 20-30 minutes three or more times per week on a nature walk, sitting in a park, rock climbing or such other activity, you’re set for a variety of health improvements including brain health.

Link to the article here.

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