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Spending time in nature can help reduce unhealthy cravings, study suggests

Greenspaces could be beneficial to consumers’ health

Photo (c) TommL - Getty Images
Though many consumers practice healthy lifestyles, it’s not uncommon for temptation to kick in from time to time. 

Now, researchers have discovered that spending time in nature or seeing green spaces can help consumers reduce their unhealthy cravings, whether that’s fried food, cigarettes, or alcohol. 

“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s well-being,” said researcher Leanne Martin. “But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future.” 

The power of nature

To see how green spaces could affect consumers’ habits, the researchers had study participants complete surveys that assessed their daily routine, as well as what their neighborhoods looked like. 

Participants answered questions about their physical activity, how often they utilized public greenspaces, how much greenspace was in their neighborhoods, the views outside their homes, and the frequency and severity of their cravings. 

The researchers determined that greenspaces, in any capacity, were beneficial to consumers’ overall health, as they worked to reduce participants’ unhealthy cravings. In knowing how often participants were exercising, the researchers were able to rule out physical activity’s role, as the reduction in cravings occurred regardless of how often participants exercised. 

Just seeing greenspaces from their own homes reduced how often participants had unhealthy cravings and the severity of those cravings. The researchers hope these findings propel public health officials to prioritize greenspaces in neighborhoods, as the positive effects are wide-reaching. 

“Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviours such as smoking, excessive drinking, and unhealthy eating,” said researcher Dr. Sabine Pahl. “In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step.” 

Greenspaces can work wonders

This study is just the latest of several that have proven how powerful greenspaces can be to consumers’ health. 

Researchers have found that city kids who have asthma benefit from living near parks or other greenspaces, as the proximity to nature reduced their asthma symptoms by up to one day. Having more greenspaces in neighborhoods has also been shown to reduce the number of heart disease cases. 

Studies have also shown that less than a half hour in the park can help boost consumers’ moods, as the time in nature can improve mental health and overall well-being. 

“There is increasing pressure on green space within urban settings,” said researcher Gavin R. Jenkins, PhD. “Planners and developers look to replace green space with residential and commercial property. The challenge facing cities is that there is an increasing evidence about the value of city parks, but we continue to see the demise of these spaces.”

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