Being among woodlands and green space measurably reduces stress and so can form part of a strategy to reduce the incidence other illnesses that result from this, a workshop hosted by the New Forest National Park has heard.
Dr William Bird, founder of advisory company Intelligent Health, member of Public Health England's Physical Activity Strategy board and advisor to the World Health Organization, said: "If you have other stress problems like poverty or unemployment, your body becomes chronically stressed and it changes - inflammation takes place, the body thinks it's under attack.
"In nature your body recognises this is a place of safety and it reduces the stress. We have seen this countless times in research. And once that stress has been offset, it means the effect on all those other mechanisms that cause disease start to fade away."
The workshop brought together NHS representatives, green space organisations and charities to discuss how to work together to enhance people's physical and mental well-being and prevent chronic illness.
West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group director Dr Tim Thurston said: "If you look at the Five-Year Forward View for the NHS, prevention is one of the key pillars to support the sustainability of our healthcare system. It is absolutely essential that we all support the New Forest to become a 'natural health service', not only in health economic terms, but above all to try and improve the quality of people's lives by helping them not become physically or emotionally unwell in the first place."
Urban settings - Greenhouse gas factor
Trees in urban settings are actually net producers of carbon dioxide, while those in woodlands absorb the greenhouse gas, according to newly published research by a team from UK and Italian institutes.
They quantified CO2 flows between land and atmosphere in a woodland Surrey, a suburban site in Swindon and a site in central London, and found that annually the urban site produced large CO2 emissions.
Short-term changes in CO2 emissions in urban and suburban areas could be explained by patterns of energy use in buildings and vehicle use, they found.