Natural England - Health and the natural environment

Health and the natural environment

Growing evidence shows that access to the natural environment improves health and wellbeing, prevents disease and helps people recover from illness. Experiencing nature in the outdoors can help tackle obesity, coronary heart disease and mental health problems.

King Edward Park

How the natural environment benefits health

The natural environment offers many benefits for health and wellbeing:

  • It reduces stress levels.
  • It encourages people to be more active, which is very good for health.
  • It helps people avoid getting ill.
  • It helps people keep stable once they have got an illness.
  • People live longer if they live near areas of green space.

See the headline facts about the cost of obesity and physical inactivity.

Natural England and health

Natural England wants more people to get out into the natural environment to have fun and get active. Being active outdoors makes people feel good, helps them to live longer and connects them to their local area.

We are working to strengthen the connections between people and the natural environment, wherever they live. We help communities to understand how their local natural environment can benefit their health and wellbeing.

There are a number of ways in which Natural England has been working to connect improved health and wellbeing with natural environments:

  • National Nature Reserves and health
    National Nature Reserves are inspirational places, with each one having its own special wildlife and landscape. Evidence shows that getting out into the natural environment improves our health and wellbeing, whether it’s for a gentle walk or a more vigorous session taking part in practical conservation tasks.

  • Health and Natural Environments – an evidence based information pack: (311kb)pdf document
    To help the health sector understand and recognise the the health and wellbeing benefits derived from natural environments Natural England have produced an information pack which is also of use to environmental and greenspace professionals. There is also an associated diagram: (82kb)pdf document helping to outline the potential environmental opportunities within the changing health structure.

  • Monitoring of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE)
    This ongoing survey provides baseline and trend data on how people use the natural environment in England. It includes the type of destination, duration, main activities and motiviations for visits and is being used to measure a greenspace indicator for the Public Health Outcomes Framework.

  • Green Exercise
    Green Exercise is any informal physical activity that takes place outdoors: from gardening, cycling and walking in urban green areas, to kite flying and conservation projects in the countryside. We supported eight Green Exercise pilots. These aimed to explore different ways of getting diverse groups active in the natural environment.

Walking for Health

On 1 April 2012, the management of Walking for Health was transferred from Natural England to the Ramblers, Britain’s leading walking charity, who are working closely with Macmillan Cancer Support to help to deliver and grow the programme of walks.

Walking for Healthexternal link encourages more people to become physically active in their local communities. It supports the largest network of health walk schemes across England, offering regular short walks over easy terrain with trained walk leaders.


See Health and the natural environmentexternal link in the Publications Catalogue.