How green spaces can improve the health of city dwellers


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A man standing in Central Park Great Lawn in New York City, Manhattan during a sunny autumn day. Green spaces located close to where people live can encourage them to walk, jog, bike and garden. Photo: AFP

United States-based researchers have conducted a study to show how green spaces in cities promote physical activity among city dwellers. The research is intended to complement a tool that maps where city dwellers can enjoy the many benefits of nature.

It's no secret that physical activity is good for your health: it reduces stress and anxiety, it's assertive, it makes you feel more fulfilled and creative. But living near a park, community garden or other green space can also help you combat a sedentary lifestyle, says a new study by Stanford researchers.

"We want to help city planners understand where green spaces might best support people's health, so everyone can receive nature's benefits," explains Roy Remme, post-doctoral researcher at the Stanford Natural Capital Project and lead author of the study published in PNAS.

The Stanford researchers' study compiled decades of public health research on the benefits of nature for urban residents. It shows how green spaces located close to where people live can encourage them to walk, jog, bike and garden.

For example, some people may choose to walk a few extra blocks to admire a garden in bloom or bike to work along a river trail, getting a boost from all the physical activity benefits they might have missed out on had they not been motivated by the proximity of the natural spaces.

The Stanford researchers take the city of Amsterdam as an example, a city known for its strong cycling culture and for its focus on nature through many parks and canals.

This study will serve as the basis for the Natural Capital Project, a free software programme that maps the places where people can benefit from the many advantages offered by green spaces. For example, this site was recently used to evaluate 775 European cities to understand the potential of nature-based solutions to climate change.

Ultimately, this new tool will be made available to urban planners and investors to provide data and help build arguments in favour of urban projects aimed at bringing nature into cities.

"Our ultimate goal is to create more healthy, equitable and sustainable cities," noted Anne Guerry, co-author and Chief Strategy Officer at the Natural Capital Project. – AFP Relaxnews

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