The Health Benefits of Green Spaces (Hint: There are Many!)

September 13, 2021 5:05 am  | Published by

Most of us know that spending time in nature can provide a sense of peace and groundedness. But when you delve into the research, it’s easy to see that access to it can in fact be a major boon to physical, emotional, and mental well-being alike. This is especially true in urban and suburban settings. Because there, the environment can sometimes be overwhelmingly developed. 

A study conducted by Denmark’s University of Aarhus that ran from 1985 to 2013 found that in the context of childhood, “Exposure to green space is comparable to family history and parental age when predicting mental health outcomes. Only socioeconomic status was a slightly stronger indicator.” And of course, that ties together with physical and emotional health outcomes. 

It’s clear, when opportunities to commune with nature are intentionally provided, the people who live and work in those areas thrive. Let’s talk about why! Here are a few of the health benefits of green spaces … 

#1 Green Spaces Benefit Moods and Attitudes

green spaces improve mood

According to an article published by the National Recreation and Park Association, “investigators have found evidence of lower frustration and increased brain activity, resembling meditation, when moving in green space versus being in retail and commercial areas that have no trees.” 

Why? Because human beings feel at home in nature. We are, after all, a part of it. It feels natural and even necessary for us to spread our toes in the grass, soak in the sun, and rest our palms on tree bark from time to time. 

This has implications for our daily routines and long-term satisfaction alike. In an age when so much is thrown at us from moment to moment, the ability to find a sense of respite and relaxation can be wholly rejuvenating. It can help us return to a more productive state, clear our minds in order to solve an emotional challenge, and make us feel that we can be more present while playing with the kids or enjoying that cup of coffee. Those are all outcomes we humans label successes, which leads to a general sense of accomplishment and pleasure that may fuel us moving forward. 

The ability to tap into and maintain a positive attitude is an essential component of long-lasting happiness and contentment. 

#2 Green Spaces Can Strengthen Immune Function 

strengthen immune function health benefits

While they work their magic on your mood, green spaces are also preparing your body to fight off illness! 

Not only does being outside typically correlate with an increase in activity, which makes for healthier bodies that are better able to fight off diseases of all kinds. It also exposes us to beneficial microbiota, teaching our immune systems to recognize and battle the bad stuff.  

#3 Benefits of Green Spaces – Reduce Stress

health benefits of green spaces reduce stress

This is a fact most of us need no convincing of! Anyone who has spent time in nature has probably experienced its relaxing effect. But what is the science behind this? 

Well, according to an article on the topic by Scientific Reports, a study by Kaplan and Kaplan suggests that “visiting natural environments such as urban green space and parks reduces stress by stimulating involuntary attention and thereby reducing directed attention. That is, natural environments seem to provide restful experiences, reducing the need for directed attention.” Experiments testing this theory show “that natural environments have relaxing effects on physiological responses such as lowering heart rate and lowering cortisol levels.” 

#4 Green Spaces Landscaping is Essential to a Child’s Development

green spaces child development

You’ve undoubtedly heard some conversation about how important outdoor time is for the little ones. In our tech-centric modern time, it holds even greater value. The Center for Parenting Education notes that being outside has the following health benefits for children:

  • “Children are more creative when exposed to nature; they can use all their senses rather than just sight and sound; they can use their imaginations. Children in nature-based playgrounds engaged in more creative play than children in traditional asphalt/structure-based playgrounds. They were more alert, better at using their bodies and more likely to create their own games. This may be because there are more objects without specific uses in nature so children can make up any use they choose.”
  • “Children who spend more time in nature have more friendships that are based upon inventiveness and resourcefulness rather than physical prowess.”
  • “Both children and adults, but especially children, with ADHD can focus better after spending time exposed to nature. The effect has been shown to carry over to school.”
  • “In schools that have outdoor classrooms, children tend to do better across the board regardless of subject.”

#5 The Importance of Green Spaces – Help People Maintain Healthy Weight

running healthy weight in green spaces

The connection here is relatively simple. Having a safe and pleasant place to exercise in fresh air results in more exercise. That helps us maintain healthy weight over time. But the data continues to back this concept up. 

In an article on its website, the USDA says, “Living within a half mile of a park or some other green space seems to help reduce obesity rates and the presence of parks and green spaces can also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.” 

The exact numeric connection between green spaces and reduced risk of obesity is difficult to quantify. However, every doctor’s best advice for keeping healthy—good diet and regular exercise—certainly intertwines the two.  

As you can see, there are so many important health benefits of green spaces to consider when thinking about how you can design your landscape. 

 

To learn how Jerry Pate Design could help you create green spaces that help the locals take advantage of these health benefits, check out the projects we’ve worked on and get in touch

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This post was written by Steve Dana

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