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Toward the end of the 18th Century, a pastime known as sea bathing took Britain by storm. People would climb into wooden contraptions called bathing machines, allow themselves to be wheeled into the water, and then plunge into the ocean. These dips weren’t just fashionable; the bracing seawater was thought to be good for the constitution. Establishments such as the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital at Margate offered sea bathing as a treatment for ailments such as scrofula, a form of tuberculosis.
Alas, it turns out that seawater cannot actually cure you of disease…but those bygone physicians were onto something. We now know that spending time near water and other natural settings brings significant boons to our health. In fact, coastal communities are more likely to report that they are healthy than similar inland neighborhoods.
Rivers - Beaches - Mountains - Forests - Contact
But what about those of us who aren’t surrounded by rivers, beaches, mountains, or forests? How much contact with nature do people who live in cities, where trees and wildlife are pushed to the margins, need? And how can we get it?
“We’ve been thinking about relationships between nature and health and wellbeing for hundreds—probably thousands—of years,” says Ben Wheeler, a researcher at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School in England, and a coauthor of the study on coastal communities. Still, “we’re only just scraping the surface of understanding what’s going on with that relationship.”
Days - Doctor - Prescription - Sea - Bathing
These days, our doctor can’t just write us a prescription for sea bathing. However, Wheeler and other scientists are starting to probe what kinds of nature our bodies need and how often we should be visiting it. Our cities have a long way to go before they become green havens, but the good news is reconnecting with nature doesn’t have to be complicated, and even urban...
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