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Why green space matters for health and wellbeing

Article taken from Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. To view the article, click here.

A summary of the health and wellbeing findings from Community green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health.

Access to good-quality and well maintained urban green spaces promotes physical activity, positive mental wellbeing and healthy childhood development.

Ninety one per cent of people report using parks to some extent. In England, 42 per cent of people use these spaces at least once a week. People recognise the benefits of using green space. For example a survey by MORI for CABE found that 91 per cent of the public believed that public parks and open spaces improve people's quality of life, and 74 per cent believed that parks and open spaces are important to people's health and mental and physical wellbeing.

The value of green space for exercise is unquestionable. Good quality spaces will encourage people to make short journeys on foot or by bike. Regular physical activity contributes to the prevention and management of over 20 conditions including coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and obesity. For example, strokes cost the NHS £2.8 billion a year. Physical activity reduces the risk of having a stroke by a third.

Access to green space positively impacts on mental health. Responses to nature include feelings of pleasure and a reduction in anxiety. Moderate activity is as successful at treating depression as medication.

Children with access to safe green space are more likely to be physically active and less likely to be overweight. Outdoor play encourages healthy brain development and promotion of healthy well being through adulthood.

Community green found that improving the quality of local green spaces will encourage more active use and exercise. Overall, if their local green space were made more pleasant and they began to use it more, 60 per cent of interviewees thought it would improve their overall physical health, 48 per cent thought it could improve their mental health, and 46 per cent thought it would make them feel better about their relationships with family and friends. Indian interviewees reported the highest perceived benefits of better local green space.

While physical activity did not feature highly in people's current use patterns, in terms of future use (based upon an improved-quality green space), it featured much more highly. Fifty-two per cent of those asked said they would do more physical exercise if green spaces were improved.

Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people were more likely than other ethnicities to visit urban green space for exercise. This suggests that improved green space use by these groups would also be more active use, and could make an especially important contribution to better health in black and minority ethnic groups.

To download the report, click here.

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