Health Benefits of time in nature

Writer and naturalist John Burroughs wrote,” I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” 

Since the ancient Greeks, people have recognized the connection between health and time in natural environments.  With the industrial revolution, doctors began to recommend city dwellers go to the country/ the mountains/ the seashore for fresh air and sunshine.  Now with over 80% of the Canadian population living in urban settings, doctors are using green prescriptions to encourage people to connect with nearby nature in back yards and local parks, as therapeutic interventions for issues such as high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. 

We are fortunate that Petrie Island offers easy access to high quality nature for residents and visitors with its ecological reserve and well maintained hiking trails and richly biodiverse ecosystems.

Many of us think, intuitively, that time in nature is good for us.  And now there is strong evidence that shows how nature benefits our health and well-being, physically and mentally. Researchers such as Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, Qing Li, Terry Hartig, Frances Kuo, Howard Frumkin and Payam Dadvand (just to name a few) have documented positive health effects and developed a greater understanding of how they occur.  Ottawa researchers promoting time in nature include Dr. Mark Tremblay with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group; Dr. Michael Cheng, a psychiatrist with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Dr. John Zelenski, a professor at Carleton University. Reports from the World Health Organization, Toronto Public Health and the American Public Health Association, recognize the connections as does the Ontario government with its Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative.

Benefits for physical health

  • lowers blood pressure
  • lowers heart rate
  • reduces muscle tension
  • improves functioning of immune system
  • increases physical activity
  • reduces risk of obesity
  • improves cardiovascular health and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
  • improves birth outcomes (reductions in low birth weights and preterm births) 
  • improves sleep
  • optimizes vitamin D
  • reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
  • lowers mortality rates

Benefits for mental health

  • lowers levels of depression
  • reduces stress levels by producing less cortisol (stress hormone)
  • reduces rumination, which is the tendency to get stuck in negative, repetitive thoughts common with depression
  • reduces anxiety 
  • supports attention restoration, a phenomenon that occurs because the stimulation that occurs when one is in nature does not require effort or concentration, relieving mental fatigue
  • reduces distractability and improves concentration
  • increases social interaction
  • improves one’s sense of belonging and community

For more resources:


Greenspace and Mental Health

Benefits for children

  • improves development of motor skills, social skills and emotional regulation
  • enhances cognitive development
  • improves memory 
  • improves problem solving and stimulates creativity 
  • reduces symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • reduces risk of near sightedness
  • enhances self confidence 
  • supports being more active, sitting less and playing longer
  • increases pro-environmental behaviours

For more information visit:

The Greatest Risk is Keeping Kids Indoors,

Garder les à l’intérieur : UN PLUS GRAND RISQUE!

Nature and Why It’s Essential For Kids

La nature et pourquoi c’est essentiel pour le cerveau des enchants

Screen Time vs. Green Time

Societal benefits

  • reduces noise pollution
  • improves air quality through reductions in air pollutants and improves carbon dioxide storage and sequestration
  • reduces risks of extreme heat 

For more resources

Greenspace and Ecohealth Toolkit

We need Nature For Our Health and Nature Needs Us