Back in September, the American Fitness Index (AFI) released it’s report on the healthiest cities in America, and not so surprisingly one of the major factors in health was individuals’ proximity to a park. Residents of cities which have a high population living within a ten-minute walk of a park, such as Washington D.C, Minneapolis and Denver, possessed healthier inhabitants.
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Aside from the accessibility of somewhere open and free to exercise, parks offer improve overall health with greenery and fresh air among busy concrete blocks. These benefits relate to ecotherapy, a term characterized by using natural spaces as a form of treating and preventing mental, emotional and physical discomfort.
A 2014 study in published in scholarly journal Environmental Pollution set out to explore how environmental exposure to trees benefits the health of Americans. Looking at data from 2010, it determined that each mature tree removes 17 metric tons of air pollution, and collectively, trees prevented 670,000 cases of respiratory problems like asthma and 850 human deaths per year in the US.
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Even more wild are the findings from a 2015 study of residents in a Toronto, Canada neighborhood which found that people who reported better health lived on streets with more than 10 trees. Furthermore, the researchers were able to equate those improved health perceptions to an average income $10,000 more than other subjects. These correlations aren’t just from recent findings—a now famous study of surgical patients recovering in a Pennsylvania hospital back in the 1970s found that individuals whose rooms overlooked trees recovered faster than those lacking a tree-lined view.
Of course, the benefits of ecotherapy have been acknowledged internationally as well, with Japanese healers practicing shinrin-yoku—forest bathing—which is comprised of people taking long walks into the woods while inhaling complementary aromatherapy scents. A peer-reviewed study of shinrin-yoku found that it actually helped people lower stress hormones and decrease their blood pressure, with benefits lasting up to one month.
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Moral of the story? Get outside. Whether it’s to a beautiful beach for a good stretch, like on Z Living’s Namaste Yoga, or for a walk with the dog you saved from a Finding Fido shelter, your body will appreciate the trip into the fresh air.
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