Parks are emerging as important public health solutions in communities. The National Recreation and Park Association reports that greater access to nearby parks, gardens and green spaces support human health and wellness.
Here are five ways that small parks and nature spaces can improve the health of our community:
1. Reduced stress
Stress is a major contributor to poor health—and nature is a great antidote to stress. NRPA says that studies by environmental psychologists show that seeing nature, in the form of trees, grass and flowers, can effectively reduce stress, particularly if initial stress levels are high.
2. Boosted energy
Spending 20 minutes in the open air gives your brain an energy boost comparable to a cup of coffee.
3. Better mental health
Experiencing nature contributes to better mental health and improves productivity, according to attention restoration theory. Nature helps to restore the mind from mental fatigue, as natural settings provide respite from the highly focused attention needed for most tasks in school or at work
4. Boosted immune system
Breathing in phytoncides—airborne chemicals produced by plants—increases our levels of white blood cells, helping us fight off infections and diseases.
5. Dose of vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for normal growth and development, and a deficiency affects physical and mental energy. Although it is present in some foods, we get more than 90% of our vitamin D from casual exposure to sunlight, thus nearby parks beckon us outside.
Our surroundings either help or hamper our growth and development. This is especially true with our housing, but it can also include our neighborhood, nearby greenspaces and public infrastructures like sidewalks, roads and bridges. When our surroundings provide us with a sense of stability and control, we are more likely to have stronger physical and mental health. Conversely, when we have inadequate housing, we are more susceptible to long-term or chronic health problems and poor childhood development. If we want to impact the health of our communities, focusing on the “built environment” is a certain way to positively influence it.