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Defeat Disease: Hike, Bike, Breathe Easier in Nature

Nature Walks, Lower Disease Risk

Get Active in Nature, Reduce Disease Risk Study Highlights Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are a major health threat, but new research suggests a powerful weapon against them: exercising outdoors. A study by the University of Exeter found that spending time in natural environments while being physically active can significantly reduce your risk of developing several common non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

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Non-Communicable Diseases: A Global Burden

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease, are responsible for an alarming 74% of global mortality. These chronic conditions are not contagious but develop over time and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Physical inactivity is a major contributing factor to NCDs, highlighting the importance of incorporating regular exercise into your routine.

The Power of Nature and Physical Activity

The University of Exeter study focused on the specific benefits of combining physical activity with exposure to natural environments like beaches, forests, parks, and even green spaces within cities. Researchers analyzed data from a large survey of the English population and estimated the number of NCD cases prevented through nature-based physical activity.

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Significant Disease Reduction and Cost Savings

The study’s findings are promising. Researchers estimate that nature-based physical activity in England alone prevents over 12,700 cases of NCDs annually, including major depressive disorder, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. This translates to substantial healthcare cost savings exceeding £108 million a year.

Nature Walks, Lower Disease Risk

Why Nature Matters

“We believe this is the first time an assessment like this has been conducted on a national scale,” says Dr. James Grellier of the University of Exeter Medical School. He emphasizes that the study likely underestimates the true value of nature-based physical activity in preventing disease. Additionally, the cost savings estimated only reflect annual healthcare costs, while chronic diseases often impact individuals for years, significantly amplifying the long-term economic benefits of staying active outdoors.

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Making Physical Activity Accessible

The WHO recommends that adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. However, globally, nearly 28% of adults fall short of these recommendations.

Dr. Grellier highlights the importance of promoting nature-based physical activity as a readily accessible option: “For those lacking access, desire, or confidence for organized sports or gym memberships, nature provides a more informal and widely available alternative.”

Encouraging Investment in Natural Spaces

The study’s findings advocate for increased investment in natural spaces like parks and green areas within urban environments. Making it easier for people to be physically active in nature can significantly contribute to public health by reducing the burden of chronic diseases and associated healthcare costs.

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So, lace up your shoes, head outdoors, and embrace the health benefits of exercising in nature!


The content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized guidance regarding your health needs.

Source: WHO

Written by Dr. Evelyn Karen

Dr. Evelyn Karen is a highly regarded Internal Medicine Physician with over 20 years of experience in Manila. Dr. Karen is passionate about patient well-being and champions innovative practices, including integrative medicine, telemedicine, and community outreach.

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