Parks for Healthier Communities
n this post, I highlight research that identifies the population health benefits of public parks and being outside in nature generally. It includes photos from my friend & award-winning photographer Cop Shiva, taken in Lalbagh, Bangalore’s botanical gardens.
I don’t think I am the only one, who, when I close my eyes and think of my happy place, imagines a place of nature – the sound of rushing rivers, wind in the trees, waves lapping on the shore. Or of looking across an escarpment, down a deep valley, across the ocean. The feeling of grass on our skin, of sun shining through leaves.
We can better imagine indigenous peoples’ attachment to the land when we feel how happy green places make us. They remind us how small our problems are, how beautiful the world can be, and they give us a sense of being at one with other living things.
As a city dweller we have to be content with parks – unless we are up for a very long drive out of town. India has many famous urban parks, including Lalbagh in Bangalore, the Botanical Gardens in Kolkata and Lodhi Gardens in Delhi. The beautiful Sunder Nursery in Delhi has reopened after a massive restoration. I live in Bangalore – formerly known as the city of parks. Now it’s a crowded city with crazy traffic and overburdened infrastructure. This just makes park spaces even more precious.
Parks are not just the lungs of the city, turning carbon into oxygen; tree cover also reduces the ambient temperature, provide something beautiful to look at and gives opportunities for recreation and physical activity. A global study has found that proximity to public parks and attractive aesthetics positively correlated with leisure time physical activity among adults, with similar results across 12 countries. Another literature review showed that proximity to parks was one of the most consistent correlates of children’s physical activity.
Other benefits include increased vitamin D; elevated happiness; improved concentration; and faster healing.A recent article in the Guardian suggests similar benefits have be seen by being near water – and even a pond, fountain or a water feature can provide benefit. The article even argues that a ‘green prescription’ (for time outdoors) should accompany every pharmaceutical prescription handed out by a doctor. These results demonstrate that the importance of having parks within urban neighbourhoods for healthy communities, and highlight the important connections between urban planning and public health.