THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GREEN SPACES

by | Apr 6, 2015

Green backyard Landscaping Moving to a new neighborhood? Researchers say go green. Numerous studies suggest green spaces – also referred to as “open space” or “urban greenery” – not only add to an area’s aesthetic appeal, they are also good for your health.

In a 2014 study, UK researchers from University of Exeter Medical School compared the health of people living in greener areas – neighborhoods with more gardens and parks, for example – to people living in less green areas. The study gathered data from over 1,000 participants who had moved to a green neighborhood for at least five years. Participants completed a mental health questionnaire every year for each of the five years. Their responses were compared to people who lived in cities and towns with fewer green areas.

The results were astounding. The researchers found that even accounting for personality differences and other factors affecting overall mental health over time, people who lived in greener areas experienced a significant improvement in mental health that lasted for at least three years.

Dr. Ian Alcock, a research fellow at Exeter Medical School who led the research, believes the findings of the study provide valuable information about the long-term benefits of greener communities.

Boost Your Mood With “Green Exercise”

Commercial LandscapingThe Exeter Medical School study isn’t the first to link green spaces with better overall health. In April 2013, the same team of researchers at Exeter found that people living in urban areas tend to experience better overall health if they have gardens and parks nearby. The study collected data from participants using British Household Panel Survey data. The participants living in green areas, who were studied over a period of 18 years, reported higher life satisfaction, less mental distress, and overall greater well-being than people living in less green areas.

In 2010, the American Chemical Society published their findings in semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology reporting that as few as five minutes of “green exercise” can be beneficial to mental health. By studying the habits of 1,252 participants of varying ages and mental health statuses, researchers discovered a link between outdoor activities – such as gardening, cycling, walking, horseback riding, farming, boating, and fishing – and improved mental and physical health.

“We believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with green exercise,” said researcher Jo Barton.

Green Spaces and Public Health

Green backyard LandscapingBesides boosting mental health, urban greenery plays another key role in our health. Green projects such as trees, sidewalk plants, shrubs in public plazas and schoolyards, and grass-covered public spaces help reduce the heat island effect (urban areas that are hotter than surrounding rural areas). In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, “green infrastructure” can even boost prices of homes in the area.

While researchers have yet to study the potential benefits of green space and improvements to vegetation and public health, evidence points to a direct link between spending time in green spaces and reduced feelings of fatigue, anger, and depression. Whether it’s taking a walk in the park, going for a bike ride, or even just hanging out in your backyard, a greener life can lead to a happier and healthier one.

Bringing green spaces closer to home is a great way to transform your outdoor living space into a healthier, happier place. The first step towards making that happen is to contact us today and share your landscaping dreams with us.

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