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Urban Green Space and Wellbeing

For this blog I want to talk a bit more about the importance of urban green grace and its importance to wildlife but also us. Green spaces are a great benefit to our environment and open space in urban environments provides many advantages such as recreational areas, conservation space for wildlife, filter pollutants and dust from the air, play a critical role in cooling cities (by providing shade and lowering temperatures), reduce soil erosion and even help with storm water management. Green urban areas facilitate physical activity and relaxation, and form a refuge from noise.

Cities are comprised of more than just buildings and people. The most “liveable” big cities are just as known for their open space as they are for their culture. Hyde Park in London, Central Park in New York, Phoenix Park in Dublin… all are attractions in their own right for inhabitants and visitors alike. Therefore, green space should be a key consideration in urban planning, if the health of a city and its people are both considered important.

As the world’s cities continue to grow, continuing to value green space in cities is vital: but is also a challenge, particularly in developing nations where there is pressure for space, resources and development. The World Health Organization also states that ‘Green spaces also are important to mental health. Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being, and aid in treatment of mental illness. Some analysis suggests that physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators’. Recent estimates show that physical inactivity, linked to poor walkability and lack of access to recreational areas, accounts for 3.3% of global deaths.

There has been considerable work done in recent years exploring the value of urban green space for health and wellbeing. Numerous studies in the past decade have reported the association between contact with green spaces and health benefits both at the individual and population level. These have included beneficial associations with health outcomes, such as cardiovascular and respiratory mortality. The three main hypothesized mechanisms for these benefits include: provision of opportunities for physical activity, recovery from stress and attention fatigue, and facilitation of social contact (Keng Lee et al, 2015 accessed through –https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556255/).

If you are interested in reading more on the subject check out these links:
http://leaf.leeds.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/LEAF_benefits_of_urban_green_space_2015_upd.pdf
http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/wellbeing-benefits-fr-nat-env-report-290915-final-lo_0.pdf

The wellbeing report by University of Essex for The Wildlife Trusts has many more links in chapter 3 you can look into on nature and our wellbeing.

So make sure you get out and enjoy your local green space, this could be walking; running or just simply sitting in a green space. If you are feeling more active and wanting to get involved with wildlife conservation don’t forget you can volunteer at your local Wildlife Trust. You could help the local reserve officers take care of your local nature reserves and get the benefits of a free green gym as well as tons of fresh air and good company!!

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