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 State Recreation and Conservation Office

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.

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.

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