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23rd January 2015

Getting out

Getting outThere are many examples of how being outdoors in green spaces and close to nature can help to reduce illness and to promote our general health and wellbeing.

Dutch research reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2009 showed that the closer you live to nature, the healthier you're likely to be. The study looked at more than a quarter of a million people's healthcare records, examining their health status for a range of 24 conditions.

Researchers correlated this with how much green space was within one and three kilometres of their home. They found that people living within one kilometre of green space were less likely to have depression and anxiety. People who lived in towns, however, were more likely to experience 15 of the 24 conditions studied.

Buiding resilience

An after-school club, Allsorts in Dornoch, Scotland, provides outdoor experiences and sessions for the children. The service has carefully looked at risks and benefits, and can demonstrate that it is building resilience in children, which will stand them in good stead as adults.

A forest school is included as part of Ballikinrain residential school in Stirlingshire. The young people learn outdoor skills, conservation, and wild foraging. The school has confirmed outstanding success, particularly brought out in young people who are reticent and withdrawn during indoor work. The confidence the outdoors work brings has turned around the lives of several of the young people, and those of their families who also are encouraged to participate.

A room with a view

Research in the USA by Professor Roger Ulrich showed that people recovering in hospital from gall bladder operations recovered more quickly when they were in a room with a view of trees and outdoor green space.

Another study by Professor Ulrich showed that when people are stressed, being outdoors dramatically improved their stress levels. Within three minutes of being in a park surrounded by trees resulted in heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension falling dramatically.

So why is the outdoors apparently so good for our health and wellbeing?

Exercise, better sleep, meeting new people, and vitamin D from sunshine are all part of it.

So let's get people out gardening, visiting the park, having a daily walk or just sitting in the sunshine. It does us all good!

Tony Clarke – QCS Expert Scottish Care Contributor

Topics: Scottish Care

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