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Kate Middleton’s favourite ‘forest bathing’ proven good for physical and mental health

‘Forest bathing’ for just two hours a week may be a “crucial threshold” for promoting physical health and mental well-bring, according to a large-scale study led by British scientists. Originally dreamed up in Japan 40 years ago as a means to combat workplace burnout, the forest bathing movement has attracted a growing following in Britain and elsewhere. Translated from the Japanese Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing consists of forgetting day-to-day worries in favour of absorbing the sensations of sitting or walking in woodland setting through the five senses.

‘Forest bathing’ for just two hours a week may be a “crucial threshold” for promoting physical health and mental well-bring

But you don’t have to travel all the way to a national park or beauty spot, as researchers said that the majority of nature visits in the study took place within just two miles of home – so even visiting local urban green spaces seems to be beneficial.

It was brought to prominence last month when it emerged that the Duchess of Cambridge had based her debut garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, called RHS Back to Nature, on the idea.

Research, led by Exeter University, shows that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are “significantly more likely” to report good health and higher psychological well-being than those who don’t visit nature at all during an average week.

But no such benefits were found for people who visited natural settings such as town parks, woodlands, country parks and beaches for less than two hours a week.

The study used figures from more than 20,000 people in Britain and found that it didn’t matter whether the two hours was achieved in a single visit or over several shorter visits.

The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, also show that the 120 minute threshold applied to both men and women, to older and younger adults, across different occupational and ethnic groups, among those living in both rich and poor areas, and even among people with long term illnesses or disabilities.

Study leader Dr Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough.

“The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban green spaces seems to be a good thing.

“Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.

“Just getting out in nature, it doesn’t have to be physical exercise – it could be just sitting on a bench, seemed to be good for just about everybody.

“It doesn’t seem to matter how you get it. You could go for one long walk for two hours on a Sunday or you could go for four lots of 30 minutes at lunchtimes during the week, the benefits seemed to be the same.

“It could be on a beach, it could be in an urban park or it could be in woodlands, it didn’t matter whereabouts it was happening.”

He added that there is growing evidence that merely living in a greener neighbourhood can be good for health, for instance by reducing air pollution.

The figures for the research came from Natural England’s Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey, the world’s largest study collecting data on people’s weekly contact with the natural world.

Study co-author Professor Terry Hartig, of Uppsala University in Sweden, said: “There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and well-being, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family.”

He added: “The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and well-being, similar to guidelines for weekly physical.”

Alongside ‘forest bathing’, the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly stays in good shape by following a certain diet plan. 

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