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Being Physically Active While In Nature Helps Prevent Several Diseases

1 month, 3 weeks ago

3070  0
Posted on Apr 30, 2024, 6 p.m.

Research from the University of Exeter published in Environmental International suggests that participating in physical activity while being surrounded by natural environments helps to prevent almost 13,000 cases of non-communicable diseases a year in England which could save the healthcare cost of more than £100 million.

In their Global Status Report on Physical Activity 2022, W.H.O. states that the most common non-communicable (diseases also known as chronic diseases that are not passed from one person to another) diseases such as stroke, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and chronic lung disease cause around 74% of global mortality, and these diseases are increasing in most countries with some countries having increased at faster rates than others.

Research indicates that lack of exercise and physical inactivity are associated with a range of non-communicable diseases which include but are not limited to certain cancers, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health outcomes. Should physical activity levels remain at the current levels, W.H.O. estimates that there will be 500 million new cases of these diseases between 2020 and 2030 which will incur more than £21 billion in treatment costs annually. 

This new study focusing on places such as beaches, coastlines, country sides, and open spaces such as parks found that natural environments support recreational physical activity to estimate how many cases of 6 non-communicable diseases might be prevented through nature-based recreational physical activity. The 6 non-communicable diseases were: type-2 diabetes, ischaemic stroke, ischaemic heart disease, major depressive disorder, breast cancer, and colon cancer. 

"We believe this is the first time an assessment like this has been conducted on a national scale and we've almost certainly underestimated the true value of nature-based physical activity in terms of disease prevention. Although we have focused on six of the most common non-communicable diseases, there are several less common diseases that can be prevented by physical activity, including other types of cancer and mental ill health. It's important to note that our estimates represent annual costs. Since chronic diseases can affect people for many years, the overall value of physical activity at preventing each case is certainly much higher,” said Dr James Grellier from the University of Exeter Medical School.

Most adults should be getting at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity every week. However, close to 30% of the global population do not even come close to reaching this recommendation, making increasing physical activity an increasingly important goal for public health institutions around the globe. 

In 2019, according to data from a cross-sectional population-representative survey of the English population called the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment, 22 million adults visited natural environments at least once a week. Using these reported volumes of nature-based physical activity, the researchers estimated that this prevented 12,763 cases of non-communicable diseases and created a £108.7 million in annual savings for the healthcare system, informal care, and productivity losses; and the estimated healthcare cost of physical inactivity for 2019 in England was approximately £1 billion. 

"For people without the access, desire, or confidence to take part in organised sports or fitness activities, nature-based physical activity is a far more widely available and informal option. We believe that our study should motivate decision-makers seeking to increase physical activity in the local population to invest in natural spaces, such as parks, to make it easier for people to be physically active,” said Dr James Grellier from the University of Exeter Medical School.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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