In our latest blog post, we shared the many ways that bee preservation can benefit our environment and have important health benefits to all of us. One way to keep bees alive and thriving is to protect our natural green spaces and parks, and within cities protected green space is increasingly important.
Natural green spaces are foundational aspects of our environment that we may or may not visit every day, but constantly provide us with physical and mental benefits boosting our overall wellness.
In dense, heavily urbanized landscapes like Toronto, the need for park space, lakefront recreation areas, and small forests to explore and unwind in, are of high importance. Urban green spaces serve many purposes including their ability to service the recreation and well-being needs of the public at all times of the year.
Green spaces enrich our lives and benefit us in major ways, not only by hosting many social events or recreation but by supporting our physical, environmental and mental wellbeing.
Green spaces and physical activity
One of the clearest ways green spaces benefit our health is with the physical benefits that such a space naturally provides. Many parks have trails for walking and playing sports in, ice rinks or tennis courts for anyone to play in, and some even have workout equipment to keep people physically active while in parks.
Even a simple park with some walkways and field space can turn into zones of activity at all times of the year. People who live close to parks are naturally more likely to make use of this outdoor space in part of their physical activity; by walking dogs, heading to the playground with their kids, or playing a pickup game with friends, making park space an in-demand feature in many neighborhoods.
Park space is also tied to lower rates of obesity and cardiovascular activity as people make use of freely available green space to jog, walk and more.
Green spaces and environmental benefits
Green spaces support many connected environmental benefits that are increasingly important within cities. Urban green spaces absorb rain and snow that would otherwise build up in the street and will use it to grow plant life in the park. Green space also filters pollutants and sediments out of surface water which increases water quality and prevents the erosion of soil over time.
Urban parks also provide a much-needed space for wildlife and insects, including pollinators, to live and make their shelter. With the limited amount of green space in many cities, wildlife is often crowded out by human activity and unable to live normally. With effective green spaces however, with their sheltering trees, bushes and plants, birds and other animals are likely to survive throughout the year. Green spaces can also be used as community gardening spaces, serving both the social and environmental needs of locals.
Green spaces and social and mental wellbeing
There is a definite relationship between the amount and quality of green space in an urban setting and rates of overall life satisfaction. Many health organizations and authorities argue that green spaces in urban environments are tied to lower rates of depression and stress.
One reason is that the other benefits offered by urban green spaces, physical health, and a greener environment, are linked to improvements in mental health. Regular exercise has been found to increase life satisfaction and boost our overall mental health, and a greener environment benefits us with cleaner air and healthier, natural flora and fauna.
It is important to recognize that the size of available green spaces alone does not guarantee their success, but their level of human activity, street connectivity, and accessibility. This means that people are more likely to use green spaces when they are close to places people naturally gather, for example, community centers, universities, and commercial areas.
Almost everyone enjoys people watching, and just as many likely prefer a park in use to an empty park. With more people using parks they also become safer places for families and children, who all keep an eye out for each other while respecting each other’s spaces. Green spaces serve as a major social benefit in this way.
For all these reasons urban green spaces should be protected so that as many people that wish to use them can enjoy their many health advantages, and those who do not get to visit them as often still receive their environmental benefits.