Valuing the health benefits of nature-based recreational physical activity in England

Available on 16 April 2024

Physical activity (PA) reduces the risk of several non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Natural environments support recreational PA. Using data including a representative cross-sectional survey of the English population, we estimated the annual value of nature-based PA conducted in England in 2019 in terms of avoided healthcare and societal costs of disease.

Population-representative data from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey (n = 47,580; representing 44,386,756) were used to estimate the weekly volume of nature-based recreational PA by adults in England in 2019. We used epidemiological dose–response data to calculate incident cases of six NCDs (ischaemic heart disease (IHD), ischaemic stroke (IS), type 2 diabetes (T2D), colon cancer (CC), breast cancer (BC) and major depressive disorder (MDD)) prevented through nature-based PA, and estimated associated savings using published costs of healthcare, informal care and productivity losses. We investigated additional savings resulting from hypothetical increases in: (a) visitor PA and (b) visitor numbers.

In 2019, 22 million adults > 16 years of age in England visited natural environments at least weekly. At reported volumes of nature-based PA, we estimated that 550 cases of IHD, 168 cases of IS, 1,410 cases of T2D, 41 cases of CC, 37 cases of BC and 10,552 cases of MDD were prevented, creating annual savings of £108.7million (95 % uncertainty interval: £70.3million; £150.3million).

Nature-based recreational PA in England results in reduced burden of disease and considerable annual savings through prevention of priority NCDs. Strategies that increase nature-based PA could lead to further reductions in the societal burden of NCDs.

Full citation

Grellier, J., White, M.P., De Bell, S., Brousse, O., Elliott, L.R., Fleming, L.E., Heaviside, C., Simpson, C., Taylor, T., Wheeler, B.W., Lovell, R., 2024. Valuing the health benefits of nature-based recreational physical activity in England. Environment International 187, 108667. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2024.108667