Benefits of access to nature

We know that a walk in the countryside is good for us. Physical activity in the fresh air, be it walking, running or conservation work, has been shown to improve our well-being; it can even be an aid in the treatment of mental illness. Some analysis suggests that such physical activity outdoors can reduce the physiological symptoms of stress.

A single walk in the countryside increases self esteem in nine out of every ten of people, with nearly three quarters of them reporting decreased levels of depression.

Frome Walking for Health group in the park.

These are extraordinary findings that show us the dangers of removing ourselves from the wider natural environment. But there is more: new research has suggested that people who spend time outdoors, with access to the countryside or urban green spaces, are much more likely to behave in environmentally beneficial ways.

Researchers sampled what they called the green behaviour among 24,000 people across the whole of England. Their findings showed that those who were not exposed to green spaces were less likely to adopt green behaviours, such as recycling, buying eco-friendly brands, or using local or seasonal produce. The size and range of the survey makes its conclusions difficult to ignore.

People who visit the countryside, who spend more time in natural open spaces are also more likely to engage in eco-friendly methods of travel and were more likely to be involved in environmental volunteering.

Friends of Southwick Country Park work party

This apparent link between green behaviour and access to green space was present across the whole social spectrum: old and young, rural and urban, rich and poor.

The message for us is to get out there; walk the dog, play in the woods, introduce your children to the local wildlife, buy a pair of binoculars and watch the birds, or volunteer to work in the park. We must maintain our place in the environment if we are to understand its complexities and have any chance of reversing any of the damage that has been done.

The message for our local policymakers is that we need these green spaces, we need access to a natural environment for the sake our personal health, for the health of our villages and towns as well as for the health of the planet.

Header and footer pictures taken in the park by DKG;
others from our archive.

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