A new study funded by REI Co-op aims to link time spent outdoors with nature to human wellbeing.
American adventure travel company REI Co-op has donated $150,000 to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The aim is for their researchers to conduct a national study which will hopefully link time spent outdoors to physical, mental and emotional wellbeing in humans.
Marc Berejka, president of the REI Foundation said: “We are at a crossroads. We know through current research that the average American spends 95 percent of their time inside. At the co-op, we believe the nation’s growing disconnect from nature will only exacerbate rising rates of chronic health problems. By supporting long-term research at Harvard, we aim to shine a light on the symbiotic relationship between health and nature. Nature is good for us, so we must be good to nature, and time outside should be part of every doctor’s toolkit.”
Co-op’s members in four cities have been invited to participate in the study.
During the study’s first phase, focus groups of 15 volunteers will be held by the researchers in Atlanta, Greater Boston, Phoenix and San Francisco. The aim is to look at and understand individuals’ traits, attitudes and behaviours when it comes to nature-seeking.
The first phase results will be used in the compilation of surveys which will be used in the phases to follow. Data will be collected from a broader group of participants via a phone app over several months. Showing how engagement with nature differs between individuals the data will help reflect on emotional, physical and cognitive changes after spending time in or doors which will subsequently measure how exposures to different form of nature could be beneficial.
Dr. Jose Guillermo Cedeño, Research Associate in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School said: “We believe this research approach will provide evidence and support for deeper consideration of nature-based medical alternatives that complement traditional clinical healthcare and emphasise the need to pay closer attention to potential costs of our culture’s increasingly indoor lifestyle.”
A previous study by Dr. Nooshin Razani at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland showed that spending time outdoors reduced stress in low-income patients. Earlier this year a worldwide study conducted by Travelzoo also confirmed taking holidays, travelling and partaking in wellbeing activities all have a positive effect on mental health.
Out with this current research, REI has invested more than $1 million towards the research into the health benefits of spending time outdoors. These donations have supported work at various universities including Berkeley, San Francisco and Washington.