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Why nature is good for your health

Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 12:18 UK time, Friday, 8 July 2011

Den building

Nature detectives den building © Beverley Gormley

Guest bloggers: Elisabeth Garton and Gail Graham from the Woodland Trust

As nature lovers we all enjoy watching wildlife and getting out into the countryside to escape the hustle and bustle of town or city life. Even the British summer weather doesn't deter us. Saint Swithin’s Day is 15 July and it's said the weather on that day will remain for 40 days, so fingers crossed we get a sunny one. Although we have a feeling that even inclement weather won't stop our enjoyment of spotting different species or trying out a walk in a different wood.

But is that the case for society as a whole? Have you ever heard of nature-deficit disorder?

The term, coined by journalist Richard Louv, describes how lack of access to nature can affect children in a negative way. If kids spending far too much time cooped up indoors watching TV or playing computer games they're more likely to suffer from all sorts of problems such as anxiety, depression or weight gain.

The government recently highlighted the value of the great outdoors, linking nature with improved wellbeing and health in its Natural Environment White Paper. At the Woodland Trust we already know how important it is for children to experience the outdoors. We work closely with schools through our Green Tree Schools Awards, which reward participants who plant trees and help kids learn about how beneficial they can be.

For fun-filled family outdoor activities there's also Nature Detectives. Here you'll find nature themed activity packs, minibeast ID sheets, treasure hunts and lots more. In short, it's no secret that getting out and enjoying nature is great for kids, as well as helping them forge a bond with the natural world that will grow throughout their lives.

Dementia Adventure

Dementia Adventure

It's not all about the youngsters though: nature is essential for everybody. To tie in with Dementia Awareness Week (3-9 July), the Woodland Trust has been working to understand how important it is for older people living with dementia to get into the countryside. To achieve this, its VisitWoods project teamed up with Dementia Adventure and Caring Homes and ran three small woodland group visits. These trips allowed care home residents and their relatives to soak up all the feel-good benefits of green space and fresh air.

From Hylands Park in Chelmsford to Westonbirt in Gloucestershire, the stunning woods and landscapes provoked a fantastic response. "You start looking again, don't you?" asked one elderly outdoor adventurer. Another described it as "a privilege to get out to places like this." One woman who rarely smiled broke into a large beam as soon as she stepped into the woodland and, much to her relatives' delight, didn't stop smiling all day.

In our experience most of the nature lovers out there have a real passion for the natural world and a love of sharing their knowledge with others. Why not spend a few hours in a wood with the younger and older members of your family? As well as igniting a spark in their imagination, you could also be improving their health.

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