Health Benefits of Contact with Nature

A Literature Review Prepared By Sara Perrins and Dr. Gregory Bratman of the University of Washington for the Recreation and Conservation Office.

by Washington Recreation and Conservation Office, RCFB Grants Section Manager


Health Benefitsof Nature


Study Direction and Purpose

The Washington State Legislature directed the Recreation and Conservation in Section 304(3) of the 2018 state operating budget to conduct a study of the economic and health benefits of trail-based activities, including hiking, walking, and bicycling. This study presents a literature review of the health benefits – physical, mental, cognitive and social – from nature contact and presents findings from over 100 studies that identify evidence of close associations between health benefits and being outdoors. Because this is a new and emerging field of study, the studies cited in this report go beyond the specificity of health benefits resulting from recreational trails in Washington to include the health benefits from nature contact as observed in the United States and other countries. There is an accompanying report prepared by EcoNorthwest1 detailing the economic, environmental and social benefits of recreational trails in Washington state.

Published October 01, 2019

About the Author


The Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is a small state agency that manages grant programs to create outdoor recreation opportunities, protect the best of the state’s wildlife habitat and working farms and forests, and help return salmon from near extinction.

More articles by this author

More Articles in this Category

Teaching Kids to be Great Trail Stewards

Trails are an important resource, but sadly we are increasingly seeing trails abused by littering and vandalism. American Trails has created a packet to teach kids to be great trail stewards so the next generation of trail lovers can help lead the way towards better care for our trails.

The Power of Trails for Promoting Physical Activity in Communities

Promoting physical activity among children and adults is a priority national health objective in the United States. Regular physical activity lowers the risk of chronic diseases and is an important strategy for reversing the obesity epidemic.

Green Schoolyards for All Children

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the creation of nature-rich urban environments, including schoolyards with natural play spaces and gardens, can help improve physical and mental health, cognitive skills, creativity, and social bonding.

Investigating the Thru-hiker Experience: A Study on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

The phenomena of thru-hiking has been on a dramatic rise, spurring hikers to venture onto increasingly remote and challenging trails over extended periods of time. Despite the recent popularity of thru-hiking, the field remains relatively unstudied. In recreation, the expectations held beforehand have been linked to perceptions after an activity, but this has not been explored in thru-hiking.