Tag Archive for: health

being in your parks and green spaces

Making the most of our parks for our health

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have sought refuge in their local parks and green spaces as part of their daily permitted exercise, as spaces to safely meet friends and loved ones, and for children to play. Research is beginning to show that people who live in neighbourhoods with greater amounts of green infrastructure tend to be happier, healthier and live longer lives, and some studies have found that as little as 2 hours a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. That’s less than 20 minutes every day!

However, you may now be asking yourself what can I do in my local park or green space that counts towards my 20 minutes a day? Well, this could be as simple as taking a short walk every day round your local park or green open space. Many of us on the Future Parks team make sure to go for a walk round our local park straight after work to stretch our legs after a long day. Some colleagues prefer to break up the working day with a quick jog round their local park during their lunch break. Although, for those who prefer a more relaxed lunch break, try taking your lunch outside into the sunshine and have a mini picnik.

For the avid gym goers among our readers, there are a wide variety of activities you can do outdoors to keep fit, from running, sports, to making use of your local outdoor gym facilities and gym classes such as body exercises, yoga, Thai Chi. If you are looking to try something new, meet new people, and spend more time outdoors, it is worth finding out more about your local volunteering opportunities, events and activities, local walkers or ramblers clubs, or community gardens.

For the nature lovers out there, some studies have shown that connectedness to nature is linked with a more positive mood and increased life satisfaction and wellbeing. Connectedness to nature is a sensory experience and initially sounds like it might be difficult, but simply listening to bird song, noticing nature, your local wildlife and their habitats is enough to start feeling more connected to your natural surroundings.

There are just a few ideas you can use to spend more time in your local green space. The mental health charity Mind has even more ideas and tips you can use to bring yourself closer to nature, not just in your local park, but also in your garden and even inside your home.

At Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks, we want to learn more about the activities, events and groups active in local parks and green spaces across the county to help people access their local green space and find out more about what they can do there. To help us keep up to date with some of the fantastic activities and opportunities in your local parks and open spaces, please follow us on twitter @CPFutureParks!

wellbeing in green spaces

Future Parks for Health and Wellbeing

For many people, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, our parks and open green spaces have become sanctuaries to escape the same four walls and the stresses and strains of the ‘new normal.’ It is, therefore, not surprising that we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting their parks and public open spaces across the country and an increased interest in exploring the benefits of parks and green open spaces on our health and wellbeing.

Among the UK’s general public, a recent survey, by Natural England found that 82% of people either ‘agreed’, ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘completely agreed’ that being in nature makes them feel happy. The survey also found that 42% of people said that, since the coronavirus restrictions began, they have spent more time being outdoors. 30% of people said that they have spent more time noticing nature and wildlife, 20% said they spend more time connecting with family and friends outdoors, and 31% spent more time exercising outdoors.

These trends are encouraging, given the emerging evidence of the positive impacts of access to green spaces on people’s health and wellbeing. A recent rapid scoping review of the benefits of green infrastructure to people’s health and wellbeing found that people who live in neighbourhoods with greater amounts of green infrastructure tend to be happier, healthier and live longer lives.

For people’s physical health, frequent visits to green spaces is associated with a healthier bodyweight and more positive obesity-related health indicators, as well as better heart rates, blood pressure, cholesterol, stress levels and self-assessed general health. Frequent exposure to green spaces is also generally associated with improved mental health and wellbeing in both adults and children: reducing stress levels and increasing life satisfaction. There is also some evidence suggesting that green space access can complement mental health recovery and help people recover from illness, injury, and poor health.

physical activity in parks

We see these positive changes because access to green spaces provides an enables increased physical activity, recreation and connectedness to nature. For example, providing spaces for different types of outdoor activities is associated with improvements in self-competence and learning, a sense of escapism, relaxation, and improved social bonding with friends and family. Enabling people to connect with their friends and family in green spaces also reduces social isolation, and is linked with perceptions of greater social cohesion within the local community (providing the space is well managed).

In term of green space provision, generally, greener environments – spaces that provide for nature and for residents – are associated with stronger health and wellbeing outcomes. The quality of provision is also important, because well-maintained green spaces are likely to result in even better health and wellbeing outcomes. When we say ‘well-maintained’ we know this can mean different things to different people. Strong and meaningful community engagement with respect to the perceived quality of green space is very important, as perceptions of what quality green space actually is will vary depending on the local community.

In order to maximise the benefits of green space for health and wellbeing, people need to be able to regularly access their local green space, ideally, within close proximity to their home or place of work. However, the amount of time spent in green spaces, in order to experience their benefit, does not have to be substantial. Some studies have found that as little as 2 hours a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. This is less than 20 minutes every day.

Whilst the pandemic has made us more appreciative of the spaces we have, it has also highlighted the extent to which access to our parks and green spaces is uneven. Studies have shown that all social groups are likely to benefit from frequent access to green space, however, disadvantaged groups, and those living in economically deprived areas, appear to experience greater physical and mental health benefits from frequent access to green space, compared to less disadvantaged groups.

Nevertheless, a recent report from Friends of the Earth revealed that, nationally, as many as 1 in 5 people in England ‘lose out on the benefits of quality local green space’ and that people from a non-white backgrounds are more than twice as likely to live in an area deprived of green space. What’s more, evidence suggests that green infrastructure provision tends to be poorer quality in more socially and economically disadvantaged areas.

To fully understand where access to green open space is not fit for purpose for local communities, and their residents, strong meaningful community engagement is needed and a good understanding of the needs and desires of local communities. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks are working with project partners across the county to identify, accelerate and support projects aiming to put this research into practice and support people to improve their health and wellbeing in green spaces. If you would like to get involved please contact us at FutureParks@Cambridgeshire.gov.uk

For a more comprehensive report on the benefits of green infrastructure for health and wellbeing please refer to Natural England’s report ‘A rapid scoping review of health and wellbeing evidence for the Framework of Green Infrastructure Standards‘.

health and wellbeing

Events: Parks, health and wellbeing

There already exists a strong evidence base showing the importance of green open space for people’s health and wellbeing. The CPFP Health and Wellbeing workshop on Tuesday 11 May aims to investigate how we can work together to ensure that access to green space is recognised as a key part of a sustainable green recovery. We have invited a wide range of stakeholders to start building relationships and develop some initial ideas for collaboration to take forward. If you would like to attend this workshop, please follow this link to register.