Green Urbanism is where it is at

Written by Cynthia Sim

Dr. Andrew Lee, a public health researcher at the University of Sheffield in England conducted large reviews of green-space research. It says the functionality of parks is paramount for making people feel happy. “If it’s a social space, where people meet together and chat and go on walks, that kind of social contact and interaction builds social networks,” Lee says. “That’s probably where the real impact is coming from that gives people a sense of wellbeing.” Adding simple greenery into your life, whether it is in your homes or office can provide you benefits you did not know you could get.

1. Improves Cognitive Functioning

A research project that was conducted in America studied the effects of the presence of greenery on cognitive functioning. In the first phase of the study, children were observed in their own homes, which were pre-selected because they lacked in greenery. In the second phase, the children and their families were relocated to housing environments that were greener. The study found that children who were housed in homes that improved the most in terms of greenery also had the best ability to focus.

2. Improves immune system

A Japanese therapy called “forest bathing” involves spending deliberate time in nature (usually forests, hence the name) and actually boosts immune function. Natural killer cells are critical for proper function of the innate immune system; one of their most important functions is to eliminate tumors. And just a single day trip to a forest park can increase NK cell number and activity, as well as upregulate anti-cancer proteins, for up to a full week. In every forest bathing study, in fact, participants enjoy this increased natural killer cell (NK cell) activity and anti-cancer protein function.

3. Reduces Stress

Greater surrounding greenness has been linked to improved physical and mental health in all socioeconomic strata and in both sexes in Spain. The associations were stronger for the surrounding greenness measured by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) than for access to geographically distinct green spaces. Further analysis also demonstrated that this association was not mediated by physical activity. This suggests that psychological relaxation was an important contributing pathway to health.

4. Beneficial to children

Studying the effects of green space, a Cornell University researcher indicated that “children who had the greatest gains in terms of ‘greenness’ between their old and new homes showed the greatest improvements in functioning.”

5. Increases community appeal

Parks and street trees have been found to be second only to education in residents’ perceived value of municipal services offered. Psychologist Rachel Kaplan found trees, well-landscaped grounds and places for taking walks to be among the most important factors considered when individuals chose a place to live.

Start adding more plants in your life! The evidence for health benefits due to relaxation, stress reduction and other psychological effects appears to be very consistent. Many studies have demonstrated associations between greenery in close proximity to residence and health benefits suggesting that being in green space can produce health benefits regardless of the level of physical activity.


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