Nature can play a crucial role in supporting positive physical and mental wellbeing and has an important role to play in how health and care is supported and managed. 

‘Green’ refers to activities taking place in parks, gardens, nature reserves, woodlands and other ‘green’ spaces while ‘blue’ refers to activities taking place on, in or near water. 

Infographic from the University of Exeter’s Nature on Prescription Handbook

Our region has many opportunities to connect to community-based activity that takes place outdoors and in-nature. Local walking groups, community gardening projects, beach cleaning and nature conservation projects are just some of the activities that can get us outdoors and in nature.

Such activities can support many aspects of our health:

Physical health

Going for a walk outdoors, helping in a community garden or taking part in a local litter pick offers an excellent alternative to ‘traditional’ physical activity or exercise, and can help tackle obesity and support weight loss. There is also a link between higher exposure to green space and lower risks of adverse Cardiovascular Disease events.

Mental health

It has been shown that people who visit nature regularly feel their lives are more worthwhile. There are also links between a greener living environment and higher life satisfaction, including improved mental health, and reduced stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. 

People who visited nature at least once a week have been shown to be almost twice as likely to report good general health.

University of Exeter research suggests that a 2 hour “dose” of nature a week significantly boosts health and wellbeing.

Other health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor and in-nature activity

  • Can facilitate an increased connection with nature and the outdoors. Nature connectedness, the act of connecting with, rather simply being ‘in’, nature, is associated with lower levels of mental ill-health and in particular, lower levels of depression and anxiety.
  • Can increase social interaction and connection.
  • Can help build confidence and the development of new skills and knowledge.

To pull all the known benefits of the outdoors and nature together in to one place, the National Academy of Social Prescribing’s academic partners (commissioned by Natural England and NHS England) have produced this evidence review to summarise what we know about the benefits of nature for physical and mental health.

Through support from the Community Fund, HEY Smile Foundation is delivering their Growing Green and Blue Health project. This project continues work in the region to support the development and upskilling of Green and Blue Health opportunities and better connect the health and care sector with community-based outdoor and in-nature activity.

The project is working closely with the Humber and North Yorkshire VCSE Collaborative’s leadership to support VCSE groups running outdoor and in-nature activities to develop their offer and skills with regards to health and wellbeing outcomes.

To find out more about the project, and to get involved, please email

Useful resources

The Nature Connection Handbook - an accessible summary of nature connection research and its application, pathways for helping people improve their connection with nature, and examples of activities and initiatives that can support and develop nature connection.

Nature Connected Organisations Handbook - a guide for connecting organisations with nature for sustainable futures and workplace wellbeing. 

Green Social Prescribing Toolkit - as a ‘how to’ guide for those people who have responsibility for, or a role in, starting, developing, or growing green social prescribing schemes. 

A Social Medi Guide for Outdoor Community Groups - a practical handbook that sets out to demystify social media and give outdoor and in-nature activity providers the tools to share and promote their activities online. 

Outdoor Accessibility Guidance - provides practical information and examples for outdoor activity providers on the following:

  • adopting an inclusive approach as an organisation
  • undertaking an access review of a site or route
  • planning and prioritising access improvements
  • working with communities
  • creating inclusive activities and events
  • designing for comfort and flexibility
  • maintenance
  • access standards and recommendations


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