Have you ever had someone who, in your mind could pass as a “hippie”, or some other “woo-woo” practitioner who preaches wellbeing say to you… “get back to nature” or “go walk in the sand, your stress levels will decrease”?

Well, turns out they might actually be onto something. Science has now proved that a nature experience reduces stress.  

Exposing ourselves to nature has tremendous benefits including a better state of mental wellbeing.

The cost of prolonged elevation of cortisol (a hormone in the body that is released in response to stress) includes:

  • learning and memory adversely affected
  • immune function lowered
  • bone density negatively impacted
  • increase in blood pressure, and cholesterol
  • increased risk of many chronic diseases; and
  • weight gain

In a recent study, urban dwellers were asked to have a nature experience for three times a week for a minimum of 10 minutes. One goal of the study was to investigate how a relatively short nature pill had on stress levels in everyday life.

The nature experience was defined as anywhere outside that, in the opinion of the participant, included a sufficiency of natural elements to feel like a nature interaction.”

Two biomarkers of physiological stress were measured and sampled through saliva collection.

The results of a nature experience reflected a 21.3% per hour drop in cortisol, over and above the 11% drop per hour from morning to nightfall, which is expected with the diurnal changes in cortisol depending on what time of day it is. Salivary amylase was also reduced by 28% per hour.

The most effective duration of the nature pill on reducing the stress hormone cortisol was when a visit into nature was between 21-30 minutes.  

That’s the perfect duration of time needed for a walking 1:1 with your team member, or a potential client or partner, right?

This is a practice that I’ve seen work well in innovative companies where leaders have reported that walking 1:1s have enhanced the constructive flow of communication. I do believe that these types of meetings could be embraced a lot more in working environments. Would you agree?

Our modern lifestyles are geared to having so much of our waking hours indoors looking at bright screens both during the day and at night time.

This is disruptive to our circadian rhythm. After a few days or weeks with a disrupted rhythm and no exposure to sunlight during the day, a decline in health and wellbeing is what follows.

The results of this study provide an excellent starting point for workplaces to consider adopting flexible and agile environments that allow employees to step away from the screen for a moment and enjoy the benefits of renewed vigor, mood, and cognition.

How often are you getting into nature? Are you doing it as part of your daily work schedule?


  • Michelle Buhne

    Wellbeing Researcher

    As a practitioner in health & wellbeing I help business leaders build a high performance culture that lasts. I support owners and employees to lead healthier lifestyles and slow the development of metabolic disease and I'm on a mission to stop the impact of burnout on productivity and retention in workplaces.