Unlike centuries ago, urban areas are experiencing a lot of stress due to the high level of urbanization and industrialization. This shows that a vast proportion of the population lives in cities. Globally, 55% of the population lives in urban areas today. And by 2045, the number of people living in cities will increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion, adding 2 billion more urban residents. This proves the need for more green spaces in our cities.
This human traffic in these cities has an adverse effect on the environment. The consequence of this is that these cities become congested, traffic becomes a norm, the quality of air will decrease, there will be excessive heat, rise in air pollution, just to mention a few.
As such cities are looking for ways towards a green and sustainable environment that will boost the overall health of the populace. Before explaining how green spaces improve health, let’s find out what green spaces really are.
What are GREEN SPACEs
Green space is an area within an urban environment that is dedicated to nature. Examples are recreational parks, playing fields, school yards, playgrounds, public seating areas, and community gardens just to mention but a few. In some cases, we have water bodies like streams, fountains, rivers or lakes, coastal areas etc. These other natural environments referred to as blue spaces simply mean near water. Now let’s look briefly explain the different types of green spaces we have.
Types of Green spaces
A. Community woodland
It refers to any woodland where the local community has some form of control over how the place is managed. It creates a sense of place that connects people to the land. Woodlands offers a great place for the community to engage in various activities like riding bikes, walking doe, theatre, etc.
Woodlands conserve nature as it provides a home for trees, plants, and animals. It equally provides an avenue to organize social activities. You can organize a walking exercise with your friends or family through the woods. This sounds like fun, isn’t it?
B. Green Roofs
This is a roofing technology that entails growing plants on the rooftops. The idea is to supplement traditional vegetation without disturbing urban infrastructure. Apart from its ability to improve health, green roofs have the capacity to last longer than conventional roofs.
C. Landscapes Around Building
The importance of landscape is enormous. When we have landscapes around our homes or offices, it not only increases the value of the property but also prevents soil degradation and reduces atmospheric carbon effects. It creates a suitable environment to relax alone or with friends, family, and a host of other benefits.
Do you desire an improved state of mind which is important in lowering stress? I will tell you to have a landscape around your home or spend time in such an environment. You will be doing your body a whole lot of good.
D. Street trees
Just as the name implies, these are trees planted in the street. Apart from the beauty, they add to an environment, street trees perform other functions beyond aesthetics. It improves air quality, cools the atmosphere, and acts as a natural water filter as it helps to prevent soil erosion and flooding.
You can also see: HOW DOES PLANTING TREES HELP CLIMATE CHANGE?
E. Urban parks and gardens
A park is an open space provided for recreational use, usually owned and maintained by a local government. When parks are mentioned, what comes to mind are recreation and leisure.
There are various areas in parks where one can really have a swell time like playgrounds, fitness trails, hiking, sports fields and courts, boat ramps, picnic facilities etc. Parks and gardens have been described as the “lungs” of the city as they prevent air pollution, control temperatures, and encourage biodiversity.
A wetland is a place in which the land is covered by water. It functions as its own distinct ecosystem. One major function of a wetland is that it traps pollutants such as phosphorus and heavy metals in the soil. Then has the capacity to transform nitrogen into a form that’s easier for the plants to take in and break down bacteria.
Researchers have discovered that the more green spaces an urban area has, the healthier the people living in it. Green spaces improve health in the following ways.
Ways Green Spaces Improve Health
1. Reduces risk of diseases
The presence of green spaces has helped to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like stroke, asthma, diabetes, low blood pressure, obesity, etc. The European Environment Agency is of the opinion that every 10% increase in green space is associated with a reduction in diseases equivalent to an increase of five years of life expectancy. That means the more green spaces in our environments, the healthy the people living in them.
2. Minimal Noise
Green spaces minimize noise. Parks are usually sited in quiet and serene environments away from the busy areas of the city. This way, there is reduced noise. Some people who go to parks for example are there to temporarily escape from noise pollution and so, you won’t find them shouting at the top of their voices.
3. Aesthetic appeal
When the city looks beautiful and appealing, it creates a positive feeling in the dwellers and a psychological benefit to people who spend time in that space.
4. Reduce heat
Green spaces help to regulate the temperature of our environment. When cities experience severe heat waves, the weather becomes so hot and uncomfortable. Nobody is happy when they are all sweaty. But if there are more of these green spaces in our environment, it helps cool the atmosphere.
5. Fresh Air
The urban areas have more vehicular movements and industries when compared with the rural areas. These emit gases that are harmful to the people living in that environment. These gases get trapped in the air that we breathe. But with the presence of green spaces, plants absorb these harmful gases, then release oxygen into the atmosphere. And we have healthy air to breathe which is very beneficial to our health.
6. Conserves water
Green spaces help in water conservation. Here trees or urban forests form canopies that reduce evaporation, thereby keeping water in the city. Also, the presence of wetlands helps to reduce flooding in our environment.
7. Psychological Relaxation
The colour green signifies life. When we have a more green environment or even spend more time in green spaces, it has a positive impact on our psychological well-being. For example, we can decide to spend time with family or friends in recreational parks or any other green space.
This will help us remove our minds from things that are bothering us and be distracted by the natural environment and beautiful scenery. In turn, we get refreshed in our spirit and get energized mentally to take on the world again.
8. Stress alleviation
Stress is very dangerous to our health and not good for anyone. When we spend more time in green spaces, it relieves stress. After the hustle and bustle during the day, it will be a great idea to cool off maybe during the weekend or in this safe environment.
9. Increase happiness
There is this mood that comes with constantly living or staying within an enclosed area or concrete walls. There’s this feeling of being caged in. But, when we spend time in an open area just like the green spaces, it’s a breath of fresh air.
There’s this feeling of freedom as we walk around the park or along the walkways. I don’t think any feeling beats this. The environment will help relax our minds while our eyes explore the beautiful scenery.
10. Promote social connection
At a time like this when social disconnection is on the rise, it is important we go out and spend more time together and what better place than a natural environment? It will help us to meet and interact with others. We meet people and people equally meet us as well. That way we can make new friends.
Even families and friends can catch up and spend quality time together. Thus, green spaces become an avenue to engage in many activities and conversations.
11. Supports Physical Fitness and activity
Some people engage in various exercises at home to relieve stress but have you considered doing such activities in a green space? Such things done in a natural environment will always be better. This is because it offers an environment that is more relaxing to the body than just any other place.
12. Improve Mental health
As important as physical health is our mental well-being. Green spaces are not only about nature but boost our overall mental health. Access to nature like this has been linked to improved sleep and reduced stress. Also, green spaces boost different aspects of thinking including attention, memory and creativity.
13. Lower Mortality rate
One of the many blessings that green spaces have brought upon humanity is the reduction in mortality rate. When urban dwellers live or spend time in these kinds of places, they will enjoy every benefit that accompanies nature.
From having improved mental health to breathing in the clean and fresh air and then engaging in physical activities. The list goes on and on. This will prevent diseases and improve the mortality rate long run.
Health they say is wealth, and when we are healthy that is when we can be productive. So make it a point of duty to sustain and encourage more green spaces in our environment. There’s no doubt about its numerous abilities to improve your health. Let’s put more effort into making our environment green in our own little way and have a feel of the beauty that nature has blessed us with.