Health and Well-Being from Nature

Go wild and enjoy the refreshing and revitalising great outdoors! Nature has always nurtured human well-being. Our relationship with time spent in nature used to form part of our work and even our struggle to survive. These days, most people spend free time outdoors, in search of a better quality of life.  

A Siberian jay has landed on the arm of a woman at the summit of Valtavaara Fell in Kuusamo. Photo: Metsähallitus/ Sini Salmirinne

Promoting health and well-being is one of the key objectives of Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland. The goal is to make Finland a nation of active outdoorspeople, for whom nature is an integral part of everyday life and recreation. Health and well-being are enhanced by a diverse natural environment and healthy relationship with nature.

Nature Affects us in Many Ways

Nature has a proven positive impact on our health and well-being, in at least three different ways:

  • Our physical activity is increased: Nature gets us moving. We move about in nature more briskly than when indoors, and the exercise actually feels easier. 
  • Nature revives us and helps us recover from stress: Our concentration improves and our pulse and blood pressure may even decrease. 
  • Moving about in nature promotes social well-being and communality: We have a more positive attitude toward other people and our mood improves very quickly. 

The natural environment itself and moving about in nature provide us with opportunities to tackle the health and well-being challenges posed by modern-day society. These include less exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, increasing obesity and the attendant risks of cardiovascular diseases, mental health disorders and type 2 diabetes. A lack of contact with nature can compromise our ability to maintain physical and mental health as well as social well-being.   

Make a Conscious Effort to Get out into Nature

Winter mountain biking. Photo: Vastavalo/ Heikki Ketola

You can get out into nature in a variety of ways. When moving about and spending time in nature, its smells, sounds, sights and physical sensations provide an all-encompassing, multisensory experience of well-being, which carries on well after spending time outdoors. 

According to Metsähallitus visitor surveys (2013–2017), the primary activities engaged in at nature destinations were mostly conventional forms of exercise: hiking, cross-country skiing on maintained tracks, walking, nature observation and backpacking. However, nature activities have branched out. Some of the more popular nature activities found among responses to the visitor surveys included everything from orienteering and nature photography to geocaching and mountain biking. 

For Finns, nature is one of the most important environments for getting exercise and a key factor in getting people active. The reasons for heading out into nature, however, vary. According to the visitor surveys, the key motivations for getting exercise were scenery, experiencing nature, the absence of noise and pollution, mental well-being and spending time with close ones. 

Getting practical exercise the natural way in the national landscape of Punkaharju on a springtime nature path. Photo: Petri Jauhiainen

The main thing is to find a suitable, enjoyable way to stay active, relax and spend time in nature! What appeals to you or inspires you to get out? Read more about various nature activities and find your very own destination!   

The Activities section provides information on various nature activities. 

You can find suitable nature destinations using the Destination search. The Destination search will help you find information on suitable nature destinations by region, features or even activity. 

Visitors with disabilities can use the Destination search to find accessible destinations and services. 

Haltia - The Finnish Nature Centre in Nuuksio, Espoo. Photo: Mika Huisman

Finnish Nature is Diverse

The Helsinki region is surrounded by a green belt, where visitors can find peace and quiet, for example in the forests of Sipoonkorpi, just a hop, skip and a jump from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visitors can reach the peaceful lake uplands of Nuuksio on a local city bus.

Brisk, bracing sea air. Finland has a total of 46,000 kilometres of coastline, 6,300 kilometres of which are on the mainland. The wash of the sea, the crackling and chirping of the ice and the hum of the wind soothe the soul. Have you ever heard how ice crackles and pops when freezing and then 'sings' when melting?

Sailors in the summery landscape of the Bothnian Sea National Park. Photo: Sanna-Mari Rivasto

In Lakeland Finland, water is forever linked with blue skies, summer days and warmth.  The lakeland nature is also enchanting in the winter. 

Paddlers in Päijänne National Park. Photo: Niina Myyrä

Kainuu's fells and boreal forests beckon visitors to savour the peaceful embrace of the wilderness. 

An almost magical display of crown snow formations in the Riisitunturi National Park. Photo: Vastavalo/ Pentti Sormunen

In Lapland, the midnight sun illuminates summer nights while the light of the moon brightens the dark days of the long polar night. The full moon is so bright during the day that your shadow will follow you! 

The Northern Lights shimmering behind the fells of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. Photo: Heikki Sulander/ Rinkkaputki

Additional Information on the Health Impacts of Being in Nature:

Metsähallitus and Well-being Projects

Metsähallitus is involved in several projects (www.metsa.fi) that promote exercise and well-being in nature.

Even a Short Time in Natural Surroundings Helps

  • 5 minutes: Better mood.
  • 15–20 minutes: Vitality increases and blood pressure drops.
  • Spending at least 5 hours a month in urban green spaces, or spending time in natural environments outside cities at least 2–3 times a month, significantly increases the mental well-being of city dwellers.