People who spend more time outside are healthier, happier, more energetic, and more productive than those who do not, a survey of 2,000 UK adults has revealed. And eight in ten (80%) of all those polled in Wales say time in nature or green spaces gives them a boost of happiness that keeps them going all day.
The study, commissioned by the Greener Communities Fund – a new, multi-million-pound fund to help NHS charities create more green spaces across the UK – revealed over three quarters (77%) find spending time in green spaces makes us healthier and more energetic, as well as feeling better physically and mentally (68%).
Keeping their body moving (37%), immune benefits (31%), sleeping more soundly (34%) and feeling less stressed (43%) were amongst the top health benefits Welsh people reported from getting outdoors. When they spend less time in nature than they would like, people report feeling sluggish (40%), tired (28%) and irritable (20%), as well as being less inclined to look after their well-being – so it might not be surprising that more of us spending time in nature could improve our health, and in turn reduce pressure on the NHS.
A collaboration from NHS Charities Together and Hubbub, the Greener Communities Fund hopes to boost health and wellbeing by establishing new community spaces and increasing our access to nature – while helping our environment and the NHS at the same time. It will especially benefit those who have limited access to green spaces currently, such as hospital staff, patients and visitors, people living in urban areas, and specific community groups.
Grants of between £29,000 and £200,000 are being given to NHS charities around the UK, including Cardiff & Vale Health Charity & Grow Well, which as a result of the funding Grow Well is able to deliver year-round, weekly sessions, actively engaging patients at three community gardens across the South West Cardiff Primary Care Cluster.
Geoff Smith, who is 63 and lives in Cardiff, said: “In 2020 I had a stroke which completely changed my life – I had to give up the job I loved as my physical ability became limited. I really struggled to adapt, and at times felt useless. I used to walk past the Grow Well garden and admire it, and eventually plucked up the courage to attend a session with encouragement from my wife. The garden is one of the only places where it didn’t matter that I’d had a stroke – being able to have a cup of tea with like-minded people helped to restore my confidence.
“Working in the garden has given me such a sense of purpose – I pop along every Wednesday and joke that my week doesn’t start until Wednesday these days. Being in outdoor spaces is so beneficial to my mental health, and watching the garden bloom gives me a sense of achievement.”
Broadcaster and gardener Alan Titchmarsh said: “Spending time in green spaces like parks and gardens isn’t just reserved for keen gardeners like myself, the health benefits for us all are clear. That’s why it’s so wonderful that the Greener Communities Fund exists and will enable more of us around the UK to experience the simple joys of the great outdoors. I for one am delighted.”
Louise McCathie, Director of Fundraising at NHS Charities Together, said: “People not only feel better when they visit outside spaces, but they work and play better too. And by giving us space to relax, decompress or simply connect with others, they can also make a huge difference to our overall health.
“The Greener Communities Fund is a much-needed initiative to help local NHS charities create more green spaces across the UK and improve the nation’s health in the process. The more time we spend in nature, the more we all benefit – and we can help reduce pressure on the NHS too. That’s why it’s so important everyone gets that chance, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.”
The study found that as well as feeling healthier, more than half of Welsh respondents (59%) said spending time in nature influences is likely to influence us to adopt behaviours that are good for the environment. Some popular ways to live a greener life include eating more plant-based meals (15%), choosing to walk rather than driving (21%) and recycling more (55%).
Being out in the open also makes us calmer, with 71% in Wales saying it makes them more inclined to take more care of their wellbeing.
Gavin Ellis, Director of environmental charity Hubbub, said: “As well as the health benefits of time outdoors, this research shows that spending time in nature makes people more likely to adopt other environmentally friendly behaviours. That means that not only are these new green spaces created by the Greener Communities Fund directly benefitting the environment by tackling climate change and improving biodiversity, there is also a wider positive impact as the people who use them adopt more sustainable lifestyles.”
For more information visit https://hubbub.org.uk/the-greener-communities-fund