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The UK's primary care sustainability network

Nature based activities

There is increasing evidence that nature-based activities have benefits for physical and mental health and immune functioning.

Five Ways to Wellbeing

Research from the New Economics Foundation found that as well as eating healthily and prioritising good sleep patterns, the ways to good mental health include the five ways to well being, which are: Connect, Be active, Take notice, Keep learning, Give. Choosing activities that cover these areas will help our mental health, and nature based activities such as “Green Gym” (see below) are amongst the few activities that can cover all of these.

The Benefits of Nature Based Activities for You

Here is a short video explaining the benefits of nature based activities. The benefits of spending time in nature are not only for your mental health; research has shown that time spent in nature improves your immune functioning, so that exercise in nature has additional benefits over and above the exercise itself.

Here is a patient’s story of how exercise in nature helped. If you want us to feature your story please contact us by email.

The Benefits of Nature Connectedness for the Planet

Being connected with nature not only helps your emotional health, but helps the planet too because you are more likely to look after what you value.

Research at the University of Derby has shown five key ingredients to nature connectedness: contact, emotion, meaning, beauty and compassion.

Activities in Nature

You could choose to exercise in nature by going for a walk or a cycle ride in a green space, by joining a park run, or by joining a “Green Gym” . You can find nature based conservation activities such as planting trees, species spotting or natural habitat restoration – through your local Wildlife Trust or the Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Or you might want to talk to your GP surgery or local health care providers about getting involved with NHS Forest.

You may feel that you can’t do strenuous exercise in nature, but still want to be involved in a nature-based activity such as gardening, walks or conservation. Many local organisations have really low key activities such as species-spotting, which don’t require any strenuous activity and would be ideal for people with limited ability to exercise. If you are interested in nature-based activities, check out the Local Groups section under “Join our Network” to find out about activities in your area. Also your practice may have social prescribers who can advise you about services in your area and who may be able to support you to attend for the first time. Please ask your GP or practice receptionists to put you in contact with your social prescriber.

We can’t list here all the groups around the country but a wonderful organisation in Surrey, called Dose of Nature, is worth mentioning, as they have great resources to find out about nature activities, and ideas that could be shared in your area.