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Get Outside for Your Health and Happiness

Get Outside for Your Health and Happiness

One hundred years ago, on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, providing protection for 35 established parks. Today, there are 407, from the most visited, Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 10 million visitors a year, to the least visited—Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, in Alaska, with only around 11,000 visitors annually.

Seems millions and millions of you know getting into any park (even if it’s just part of a city block) is good for you. And science backs you up. A multi-center US-Canada study found that “knowing and experiencing nature makes us healthier, happier, people.” And a University of Rochester study found being around green spaces not only reduces stress and makes you feel better, but you behave better too!

How much green time do you need? Australian researchers say 30 minutes a week minimum is what it takes to relax and reduce your risk for high blood pressure (HBP) and depression. If everyone would do that, they say, the prevalence of HBP would decrease by nine percent and depression by seven percent.

Our recommendation for green-space health boosters: Spend 30-60 minutes (with a pedometer and a buddy) walking, five times a week. Head for 10,000 steps daily—outside when weather permits. (An after-dinner walk with the family is great!) Find a quiet spot and meditate for 10 minutes. You’ll avoid what’s being called Nature Deficient Disorder that’s afflicting everyone from screen-bound kids to housebound elders. 

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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