London: Feeling unwell? Instead of popping up a pill, sitting in the lap of nature can have various health benefits, says a study.
The findings showed that living near the nature or getting regular exposure to greenery may reduce the risk of a host of illnesses including Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, preterm birth and stress - and boost overall health.
"We often reach for medication when we're unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact," said Andy Jones from Britain's University of East Anglia (UEA).
Health-boosting properties of forest bathing can be explained by Phytoncides, which are organic compounds with antibacterial properties, released by trees, the researchers said.
"People living near greenery likely have more opportunities for physical activity and socializing. Meanwhile, exposure to a diverse variety of bacteria present in natural areas may also have benefits for the immune system and reduce inflammation," said lead author, Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett from UEA's Norwich Medical School.
For the study, published in the journal Environmental Research, the team studied data from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people from 20 countries including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan.
Spending more time with nature also increased sleep duration and significantly reduced the levels of salivary cortisol - a physiological marker of stress.
The researchers hope that the findings will prompt doctors and other healthcare professionals to recommend patients to spend more time in greenery and natural areas.
"We hope that this research will inspire people to get outside more and feel the health benefits for themselves. Hopefully our results will encourage policymakers to invest in the creation, regeneration, and maintenance of parks and greenery, particularly in urban residential areas," Twohig-Bennett noted.