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If Green Space Acts Like Medication, What Is the Dosage?

By Verla Fortier March 20, 2023 Health and Fitness

In an article for Sixty and Me on why we love nature so much, I wrote about how fractal patterns in nature trigger 60% reduction in stress throughout our entire body.

What Do We Mean by Stress?

Your body’s balance is kind of like a kid’s playground see-saw or teeter-totter moving up and down between two sides of the nervous system with ease. One side of the nervous system is speedy and the other is slower. This body balance between speedy and slower side happens automatically.

Stress is when your body gets stuck on the speedy or the slow side. As a result, you feel unsafe, kind of like you are stuck way up in the air about to fall off or stuck on the ground on that tetter-totter with nowhere to go. Stress is formally defined as any time your body loses its homeostasis or balance.

The good news is that spending even a few minutes outside in green places automatically puts your mind and body back into balance. This rebalancing takes place without you even knowing.

The great thing is that there is nothing for you to do. All you have to do is get in that green space.

How Often, You Ask?

Green space researchers began asking the same question. Once they proved the health benefits of spending time in green space as comparable to medication, they wanted to know, like you do, the dose required.

In 2019, UK research team headed by Professor Mathew White at Exeter Medical School proved that just two hours a week or more of being in nature had a positive effect on your health and well being. They said that this amount of time spent in green space is comparable to getting your recommended (150 minutes) weekly amount of exercise. This means that two hours in nature has the same benefits as two and a half hours of exercise.

And the icing on the cake is that you don’t have to live in the forest or by a park, you just have to visit one for a total of two hours a week.

So, Give Yourself Some Green Space!

Try to notice that when you are outside, you begin to feel better, smile more, have more energy, and feel calmer at the same time. There is science behind each of your body’s responses to being outside. I will continue to share this with you in future Clipper columns.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes by green space researcher Professor Andy Jones on page 51 of my book Optimize Your Heart Rate: Balance Your Mind and Body With Green Space and in our podcast conversation episode #32 of Your Outside Mindset:

“We often reach for medication when we’re unwell but exposure to health promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping to treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact.”

Today’s Tip

Spend a total of two hours a week outside in green space – on a long walk on the weekend or several short visits during the week. Just getting yourself outside is the most difficult part. Once you are outside in green space, as long as you are paying attention to anything at all that is natural (the shape of a cloud, the feeling of the breeze, bird song, the scent of a plant…) you will get the health benefits.

You can stroll around, walk, or simply sit and take it all in. The positive effects are all the same no matter what you do.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have a favourite sit space when you get outside (sit on a log or a rock to sip your tea)? When you stroll around outside where do your eyes like to go into the tree branches, earth, sky)? Do you notice how easily your attention floats from one thing in nature to another?

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In our city home I enjoy just relaxing in our backyard. But, at our mountain cabin I love walking through the neighborhood always looking around at my surroundings for deer, squirrel, birds and other wildlife; taking in the tall pines, mountain air and sounds of the local falls and streams. Going outside at night presents an entirely different sensory experience; I can get lost gazing into night sky; stars, planets, constellations… whether day or night, the sights, sounds and smells of the mountains are my happy, healing place.

Verla Fortier

Patrice I thought I had replied to you when I read your comment over a week ago but I don’t see it here. So I will say once again that I admire how beautifully you have designed your life around your deep love and connection to all living beings nature. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your days and evenings in nature and for showing us how central this is to your present and happy life. All the best, Verla

The Author

Verla Fortier, a retired professor of nursing, manages her lupus erythematosus by living and playing outside in Pine Falls, Manitoba, Canada, on the edge of the boreal forest. For free evidence-based green space health tips visit her website

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