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Green Space, Parks and Healthy Communities

Submitted by Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO)

June was Parks and Recreation and Parks month, and to reflect, Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO) has profiled some important new research into the effects of green space and parks on the health of our communities, and those who live in them.

 

PhotobyRobHyndman

Parks and Mental Health

Dr. Marc Berman of Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute published a study on the positive effects of walking in nature for people who suffer from depression. His research is part of a cognitive science field known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART) which suggests that people concentrate better after spending time in nature or looking at scenes of nature.  

This theory is supported by an overwhelming amount of research. Dr. Frances Ming Kuo of the University of Illinois published a monograph in 2010 to summarize this research. Its an essential read for anyone who is making a case for more parks and natural spaces. Find Dr. Kuo's paper (along with four other great reference documents about recreation, parks and physical activity) here.

Parks and Physical Activity

In another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers studied neighbourhood park size, proximity and features and their effect on physical activity levels. The study, conducted by faculty at the University of South Carolina, the University of Waterloo and the University of Washington, found that the more features a park had - such as playgrounds, ponds and trails, the more it was used. It turns out that proximity and size of the park had less of an impact on use. The researchers conclude that a system of attractive, natural parks interconnected by trails may be more effective for promoting physical activity. 

Parks and Healthy Communities

The healthy cities movement has been around for almost 30 years - and it had its genesis right here in Ontario with the work of Dr. Trevor Hancock. We know a great deal about what the components of a healthy city should be, but less is known about how to deliver the potential health benefits and how to ensure that all citizens reap those benefits. A new study in the medical journal The Lancet focuses on the complex issues of health and environment. One size won't fit all communities, especially in under-resourced areas. The article looks at different aspects of the built urban environment from wastewater to active transportation and physical activity. The authors promote a collaborative approach between planners and health professional and the involvement of many stakeholders. 

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