There’s nothing quite like getting outside, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying bird songs, soaking in the green all around, and moving your body gently around a walking path. In fact, a walk in the park benefits more than just the body; studies show, “The nation’s public parks and recreation are leaders in improving the overall health and wellness of the nation. They are essential partners in combating some of the most complicated challenges our country faces – poor nutrition, hunger, obesity, and physical inactivity.”
For many, parks are more than just playgrounds full of children laughing and squealing, the sound of baseball bats cracking into the latest pitch, and family reunions in pavilions. Parks are where all can gather – regardless of age, socioeconomic status, race, ability, or ethnicity – which puts parks in the unique position of benefitting society as a whole. In fact, parks and recreation areas need our support more than ever in order to continue to support us! Let’s breakdown their benefits.
- Parks help reduce obesity and any instances of chronic disease, as they provide a variety of ways to increase activity and exercise levels for people of all ages.
- Parks give us a unique connection to nature that many living in urban areas may not have access to at home. This connection relieves stress levels, improves our relationships with each other, and boosts mental health.
- Becoming connected to a park has proven beneficial in a person’s ability to become tobacco-free
Parks also benefit the areas where they are located. In a study from Eastern Kentucky University, evidence proved, “Parks are a tangible reflection of the quality of life in a community. They provide identity for citizens and are a major factor in the perception of quality of life in a given community. Parks and recreation services are often cited as one of the most important factors in surveys of how livable communities are.” This put parks above school districts and business developments in terms of community quality. Parks are incredible assets.
These benefits extend to the aging population as well. While many aging adults felt the squeeze during the start of the pandemic, with social distancing and isolation being one of the worst factors for overall health, most local parks continued to operate, providing much-needed relief for so many. “Although physical activity promotes health whether people engage in it indoors or out, a number of studies connect ‘green exercise’ outdoors in nature with greater feelings of enjoyment, energy, vitality, restoration, and self-esteem.” (https://bit.ly/3xKRycP) These benefits helped many seniors counter the ill-effects of social isolation and promoted small snippets of wellbeing, even in the darkest of times for many. And now, even as things open back up and a sense of new normal descends upon us all, local parks continue to provide those beneficial spaces for us to get outside, get a little lost, and enjoy the company of others safely.
It doesn’t stop there for the aging population. Just being able to see a garden or natural park from their own windows increases feelings of wellbeing. Being able to rest and rejuvenate in a park also reduces risk of developing dementia, and “older adults to spend longer durations of time in a park and perceive health-related benefits from their park activity show reduced blood pressure. Walkable green spaces are associated with greater longevity in older people.” (https://bit.ly/3esuQyh). Additionally, many parks have increased their accessibility for all people, regardless of ability, paving some paths, adding handrails, creating more flat surfaces to move on, and even adding wider and longer benches or other equipment for use. Parks are continually increasing their ability to provide a safe, nature-filled space for all to enjoy.
From improved cardiovascular health to lowering risks of high cholesterol, diabetes, and stroke, alongside an increased overall quality of life, supporting your local parks and rec facilities benefits more than just the trees, green space, and wildlife that call them home. Support your local parks; they do so much for so many, and every voice for the parks increases the voices in support of healthy, positive aging – and that’s a mission we here at VANTAGE stand behind and proudly promote, every day.