Nature is good for you

The bird that sings, the trees that shriek softly, the little beast that feeds, and the stream that flows. Walking in the woods feels very good, it should be good for your health.

Posted on July 2, 2021

Mary Tyson

Mary Tyson
Journalism

The Association of External Enterprises of Quebec (SEPAQ) asked Drs Louis Perrier and a team of researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute to conduct a comprehensive review of the scientific literature to see if this is true.

Dr. says.s Bahrir, MD, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Montreal and assistant scientific director in the Department of Prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute. “We wanted to see if there was any science to back it up.”


PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, PRESS

considered ds Louis Perrier and his team evaluated studies that scientifically prove nature’s health benefits. Yes, the evidence is there.

The answer is yes. But there are still many things to discover, and in particular, what accounts for the benefits of nature?

What are the components of nature? This is what attracted me the most. Is it green spaces? the color ? Should there be a lot of trees per square kilometer? Is it noise reduction? sound type?

considered ds Louis Perrier

considered ds Bherer and his team searched a large database, MEDLINE/PubMed, for studies on this topic using keywords such as jungle cure where natural therapy.

They then created a hierarchy between studies (more than a hundred) according to the strength of their scientific evidence.


PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PressE ARCHIVES

Touching nature is soothing. There are now scientific studies that say so.

“You have to be careful in your research, says Drs Bahrir. Studying is interesting but not convincing. When it is reproduced by different teams, in different countries, in different laboratories, we are convinced. »

Physiological benefits


Photo of Hugo Sebastian Hubert, Los Angeles Press Archives

Connecting to nature, like here at Devil’s Mountain Regional Park, should lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

for ds Bherer and his team, the strongest evidence was found on the physiological benefits side.

Exposure to nature decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and sympathetic nervous system response and increases the capacity of the parasympathetic nervous system.

considered ds Louis Perrier

“It’s the sympathetic system that boosts your abilities when you need it, increasing your heart rate, for example,” he adds. The parasympathetic system aims to reduce the physiological response when it is time to relax or sleep at night. »

There was also fairly strong evidence of reduced anxiety in the nature-exposed participants, he adds. The evidence is less robust regarding nature’s effects on depression or cognition. considered ds Bherer and his team were particularly interested in the dose needed to record benefits.

“Do you have to go three times a week? For 10 minutes? Thirty minutes? One and a half? The evidence is stronger at exposures of 120 minutes or more, but on the other hand, other studies suggest that benefits start after only 10 minutes.”


PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESS ARCHIVES

One day we can prescribe a short walk to Waber Falls, in La Mauricie National Park, to improve his health.

considered ds Bherer compares it to physical exercise: there are “ideal doses”, but once you do it a little, there are actually benefits for sedentary people. In his opinion, there is sufficient scientific evidence to describe exposure to nature. It is still necessary to know the prescribed dosage.

“I don’t find it very convincing to tell people to go for a walk in the woods. It’s like telling people, ‘Go exercise.’ It’s zero convincing. You have to tell people what to do, at what level of intensity, and how many times a week.” There we get into a prescription, but that requires sufficient evidence on a scientific level. That’s what I’d like to work on.”

SEPAQ Study

Last fall, SEPAQ surveyed its clients about the well-being of outdoor activities. The vast majority of visitors claimed that they felt positive effects on their mental health (87%) and their physical health (84%).


Photo by Bernard Brault, press archives

Precious contact with nature at Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville

However, Crown wanted to get a scientific picture of the issue by calling in the D team.s Bahrir. SEPAQ spokesperson Simon Boivin said the study underscores the importance of the company’s focus, which is focused on connecting people to nature from a public health perspective.

“SEPAQ also wants to contribute to the development of knowledge about nature’s benefits to global health so that other organizations can benefit from it in their respective fields,” says Mr. Boivin. The company believes that the more the benefits of connecting with nature to health are known, documented, and demonstrated, the more Quebecers will be able to take advantage of every aspect of what their natural areas can offer them. »

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