There is a growing consensus that nature has many health benefits, from increased physical activity to mental, emotional, and community health benefits.
Nature exposure has demonstrated benefits for general well-being as well as for specific outcomes including anxiety and depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. A study in Australia documented that individuals living in highly green surroundings reported better mental health, regardless of physical activity. Being active is a small but powerful change you can make to manage stress, and exercising in a natural setting as opposed to indoors has mental health and emotional benefits.
Being outdoors is proven to help a wide range of physical health issues, including increasing physical activity in children, increasing vitamin D in people of all ages, and decreasing blood sugar for diabetics.
In general, physical activity increases if a person lives closer to a park in good condition that is perceived to be safe, and increases with specific amenities like trails, playgrounds, sports facilities, recreation centers, or programming.
Time outdoors also helps in production of Vitamin D, helps children stay alert during the day, and is associated with improved distance vision, an increase in physical resilience (for example, how quickly a wound can heal), and longevity.
Parks and green spaces have social, economic, and environmental benefits for surrounding communities. Public spaces with more natural landscaping attract more people than spaces with no nature, increasing the chances for social interactions and integration, especially in the elderly. Increasing the amount of green space in a community can also positively affect the presence of aggression, violence, and crime.
Economic benefits include improved property values; environmental benefits include improvements in air pollution and temperature moderation by trees.
If you’re a health care provider looking for more research on the health benefits of spending time outside be sure to download our Healthy Parks, Healthy People manual.
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