When it comes to modern life in urban areas, some of the things most of us associate them with are inactivity, stress, crowded spaces, and polluted air. However, there are indicators that this perception of cities may change. More urban areas are benefiting from the introduction of green spaces and urban parks. According to an article published in the Journal of Public Health, green spaces have been found to have a significant impact on urban health. Still other studies have linked them with an increased sense of well-being and better physical and mental health of urban residents. Because of this, parks and green spaces are seen as practical public health solutions. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at their health benefits and their role in modern urban communities.
By Derek Lotts
Health Benefits of Urban Parks
Aside from the obvious perks of the beauty of nature, cities with wide open spaces offer additional bonuses. They can be a haven for walkers, runners, cyclists, and the like.
They reduce the risk of chronic diseases
It’s no secret that urban health is at an increased risk of a number of chronic diseases. Of note, they include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, depression, and asthma. Green spaces and urban parks promote physical activity, which is directly related to a reduced risk of developing chronic disorders. Some of the effects of green areas on urban dwellers include improved mood, enhanced social capital and cohesion, and reduced stress. All of these translate to improved health and an enhanced sense of well-being. Symptoms of depression may be alleviated. Exercise, as well as the visual stimuli that individuals experience when in natural surroundings, can be beneficial. Certain studies also suggested a boost in the functioning of the immune system. In addition, improved cognitive function, and reduced morbidity and mortality may result.
They help reduce carbon emissions that are harmful to human health
Carbon dioxide emissions present as much of a danger to human health as they do to environmental health. Urban parks and green areas are abundant in trees, which helps reduce the carbon footprint in the cities as the pollutants get absorbed. Aside from the major CO2 emitters such as cars and industries, inefficient lighting can also pose a hindrance to human health. It’s estimated that lighting alone is responsible for 6% of carbon dioxide emissions. Hence, roads and streets with good lighting systems are a necessity in urban areas. By making a global switch to eco-friendly lighting solutions such as LED lighting systems, we will be able to reduce CO2 emissions that are harmful to human health. Thus we can foster an environment that promotes health and sustainability. Furthermore, with energy-efficient lighting systems, energy conservation becomes a walk in the park.
They promote well-being through energy-efficiency
Given the environmental issues we are facing on a global level, countries around the world are looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the levels of air pollution. Aside from implementing energy efficient upgrades, building green areas and parks is one of the most effective ways cities can achieve those goals. Improved energy efficiency in urban environments translates to a number of health benefits for its residents. It may result in reduced indoor and outdoor pollution and enhanced conditions in indoor environments. Likewise, there may be a decreased risk of developing sick building syndrome, as well as fewer diseases and illnesses related to the respiratory system.
They promote a healthy community through sustainable practices
As environmental consciousness rises, cities are employing sustainable practices as a way of creating a healthier community. This is evident in the use of construction materials which are becoming increasingly environmentally-friendly. One such material that has found its application in sustainable construction is timbercrete, (Which is, like the name itself suggests, a mixture of timber and concrete.) It is a more sustainable alternative to the standard concrete and bricks that are used to create park pathways. And it can easily be made into standard shapes just like concrete. This is just one of the numerous examples of innovations in green construction. Because environmental health affects public health, turning to more sustainable practices seems like a logical solution. It would lessen environmental impact as well as enhance urban livelihood.
Modern lifestyle has brought with it many benefits. But aside from its perks, it also had an impact on the way we function on a daily basis. Physical inactivity is a growing problem for urban dwellers. Chronic stress that is common in urban areas makes it difficult for residents to maintain good physical and mental health. Not to mention the air pollution levels that tend to be higher in densely populated areas. However, with the introduction of small green spaces and urban parks, these negative effects are reversed. The integration of such spaces is seen as a significant step towards creating more sustainable cities.