Is Better Health Your New Year’s Resolution? Read This.
By Michael Halicki, Executive Director, Park Pride
For many people, the new year brings with it the resolve to get fit, get healthy, and adopt a more active lifestyle. Sound familiar? Perhaps you’re planning to hit the gym, buy organic, or dust off your sneakers and pick up jogging. While all of these are great aspirations, I’d like to offer an alternative resolution to consider that will tic all the boxes: visit a park. Whether a park you’re familiar with or one you’ve never been to, make visiting our region’s greenspaces a habit. Why? Because visiting a park is a healthy choice, both for your mind and body.
The research supporting this statement continues to grow. I won’t exhaust the full list of benefits, but some of the impacts you can expect to enjoy from spending time in greenspace include:
- Improved mood and state of mind
- Reduced stress
- Decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Lowered blood pressure
- Improved ability to focus
- Strengthened immune system
The list goes on. In fact, Business Insider pulled together a dozen benefits and their related studies in their 2018 article Being outside can improve memory, fight depression, and lower blood pressure — here are 12 science-backed reasons to spend more time outdoors.
My challenge to make visiting a park a habit is not one that you take on alone. 2019 is Park Pride’s 30th Anniversary, and to mark this occasion we’ve adopted the year-long theme “Parks are the Heart of Community.” This theme speaks to many different elements of the benefits of parks (to be covered in a subsequent post!), one of which is the ‘health’ angle (identified most visibly by the “♥” on the postcard’s cover). Park Pride will be with you on this journey towards improved health all year long.
We’ll start at the 18th Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference with Dr. Nooshin Razani, director of the Center for Nature and Health at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, who has been prescribing spending time outdoors to children and families as preventative medicine since 2014. She, along with Mitchell J. Silver, the Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, and Gil Penalosa, the Founder and Chair of 8 80 Cities, are this year’s conference keynotes. Dr. Razani hopes that her trials and research will result in evidence-based nature prescriptions, further promoting and encouraging people to get outside and into greenspace. Join us for the conference on March 25th and be inspired by the amazing national and local thought leaders that are lined up for the program (early-bird registration is open and limited to the first 75 registrants!).
I will also join you in this resolution to get outdoors, and I’m personally most looking forward to the mental and emotional benefits that will result. You see, my most treasured Christmas present this year (and the inspiration for this post) was a card presented to me on Christmas morning by my wife, son, and daughter. On its face, the card read “A Year of Hikes.” Inside was a commitment – signed by each member of my family – to go on “a hike a month” – my pick – “with no complaining.” It ended with a bonus: “Take all the pictures you want.”
Their commitment to join me on “A Year of Hikes,” takes my current thirst for the outdoors a step further. With their encouragement, we will endeavor into small parks, big parks, urban parks, state parks, and national parks together. Parks, trails, and greenspaces are shared places for families, friends, and communities to connect and spend time with each other. More great experiences with my family outdoors in 2019… that will be good for my heart, indeed.
So, are you convinced? Will you join Park Pride and me in resolving to be healthier and happier this year by visiting more parks? If you are visually inclined, post your images on Facebook or Instagram (tag @parkpride and @halickim and use #parksaretheheartofcommunity). Share where you went and how it made you feel. I’ll bet that you’ll feel healthier and happier!