Feeling rundown? You may need a nature fix

Image 1 of 6

Between sleep, work and school, we spend up to 90 percent of our lives indoors.

Emory internist Dr. Sharon Bergquist says we're spending most of our days connected to the virtual world, but are disconnected from the natural world around us. And we may be paying a price for that when it comes to our health and wellbeing.

"I think it's so fundamental to our being to want to be outdoors with nature," Dr. Bergquist says. "I think we have millions of years of our ancestors being outdoors, and it's part of our DNA."

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School looked at survey date from about 20,000 people.

They found those who said they spent little or no time outdoors were more likely to report feel unhealthy and dissatisfied with their lives.

But, those who spent at least two hours a week in nature reported a much higher sense of wellbeing and satisfaction.

"The more time we're spending time indoors and on screens is removing us from some of our most fundamental needs," Dr. Bergquist says. "And sometimes just reconnecting with nature can have such a calming effect on our overall wellbeing, that I think this study is a bit of a wakeup call."

So how much time do we need to spend outdoors to get that "feel-good" effect?

Not that much.

"Somewhere between 17 minutes to 43 minutes a day is the sweet spot," Bergquist says.

It didn't matter if you got all your outdoor time at once or broke it down into smaller chunks; the payoff was the same.

"They found there was a 59 percent increase in how people rated their own health and a 23 percent increase in how they rated their wellbeing," Dr. Bergquist says. "I think the results are pretty profound."

So, could your doctor one day write you a prescription for outdoor time?

Maybe, says Dr. Bergquist.

Because we all could probably use a little less screen time, and a little more escape time.