Outside is back in

01/04/2012 2:02

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above 

It’s important to take the time to appreciate our open spaces, as a little fresh air could be better for you than you think.

From improving physical health to lifting mood, promoting relaxation, improving concentration, hastening healing and facilitating social connectedness, nature seems to have it all.

”The evidence is starting to accumulate from around the world that people need green space….
People like architects, urban planners and engineers and health experts have all been doing research in the last decade or so and found that, with more green spaces, people take more exercise, which is great in fighting things like obesity and heart disease and diabetes.

”There’s also evidence that hospital patients who see or have access to green spaces need less painkillers than those who don’t, and that green spaces help relaxation, which increases attention restoration.”

A 2003 Swedish study of almost 1000 people in nine cities found that the more time people spent in outdoor public green space, the less stressed they felt and the fewer stress-related illnesses they reported regardless of age, gender and socio-economic status.

The British mental health organisation Mind, in its Ecotherapy report, recommended that ”green exercise” be considered as a clinically valid treatment for people experiencing mental distress. And scientists at the University of Essex found that just five minutes of green exercise a day resulted in improvements in mood and self-esteem.

In 2009, a team of Dutch researchers headed by health expert Jolanda Maas found that the general prevalence for 15 out of 24 diseases – including anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, chronic neck and back pain, asthma and migraine – was lower in people living in environments with more green space in a one-kilometre radius. In 2001, University of Illinois professor Frances Kuo looked at the relationship between levels of vegetation and crime rates in a Chicago public housing development. She found that housing blocks with high levels of greenery had 48 per cent fewer property crimes and 56 per cent fewer violent crimes than housing blocks with little or no vegetation.

……”We have evolved from open spaces,” he says. ”It’s not surprising that we have developed to get something out of nature and green spaces, just like we get something out of food and sex and drink.”

……”For me, personally, being away from the noise of the city and computers makes a world of difference,” she says. When I’m close to nature, I’m most at peace. ”I imagine it’s a bit of a fundamental thing – if you think about how we were designed to live, sustaining ourselves from the land, it’s probably innate to want to go back to those roots.”

Tess Michaels