Archive for the ‘Health Benefits’ Category

Obama report: parks help keep kids fit

May 12, 2010

Photo: White House Flickr Stream - Samantha Appleton

Michelle Obama has rolled out the report to the president from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. While many news report have focused on the nutritional recommendations, the report–available on the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign website– also recognizes the crucial role of exercise in keeping children fit and the importance of parks in providing a venue for that exercise.

Parks and playgrounds in a community can provide opportunities to run and play and may increase unstructured physical activity. If children can easily access safe parks and playgrounds in good repair, they are more likely to engage in recreational physical activity there.

National, state, and local parks are an ideal environment to be physically active, and increased access to parks is proven to promote physical activity among children and adolescents. In addition to encouraging physical activity, parks and other natural landscapes can provide recreational experiences, opportunities to learn and grow, and places of quiet refuge.

Among the report’s several recommendations dealing with parks:

Increase the number of safe and accessible parks and playgrounds, particularly in underserved and low-income communities.

The report recommends targeting federal funds to this purpose and the “development or renovation of playgrounds to include less asphalt and more natural terrain, so as to foster unstructured, ‘natural’ play.”

It’s great to have this recognition for the crucial role parks can play in kids health. There is more information on this topic on TPL’s website, including a 2007 report on the health benefits of parks and a story from Land&People magazine.

(Have I mentioned recently that you can request a free copy of the magazine at http://www.tpl.org?)

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Bits and bytes for a Monday morning

May 10, 2010

Boosting self esteem - Photo: Darcy Kiefel

Five minutes of green can boost self esteem
Thanks to TPL volunteer extraordinaire Tom Reeve for alerting us to a news article from Reuters about the psychological benefits of parks. TPL collects and publishes information on the benefits of parks and open space, and we will file this one under “benefits, health, mental”.

Researchers from the University of Essex found that as little as five minutes of a “green activity” such as walking, gardening, cycling or farming can boost mood and self esteem . . .

Many studies have shown that outdoor exercise can reduce the risk of mental illness and improve a sense of well-being, but Jules Pretty and Jo Barton, who led this study, said that until now no one knew how much time needed to be spent on green exercise for the benefits to show.

Tell the president (yes, that one) your conservation ideas
In the wake of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Conference of April 16, the USDA has posted an online application for sharing conservation ideas in three broad areas: reconnecting with the great outdoors, private land conservation, and public land conservation. Anybody can read and rate the ideas. To comment or post, you will need a free account (click “register” at the top of the page.) An interesting experiment in using technology to further policy dialog.

The Big Slick and the Big Easy
Not sure how long The Wall Street Journal keeps content online for non-subscribers, but this opinion piece by freelancer Douglas McCollam contains some wonderful writing and interesting observations on what others are calling the “Gulf oil spill,”  but which McCollom says should really be characterized as “an erupting, underwater oil volcano.”

Everyone is distressed by the crisis in the Gulf–at TPL we have been watching in horror as the oil drifts closer to islands and marshes we have helped to protect. From McCollom’s piece:

. . . while revenue from offshore drilling has helped fill Louisiana’s coffers, it has also inflicted severe environmental damage. As far back as the 1950s, and particularly during the 1970s and ’80s, the state’s fragile wetlands were carved up to give oil companies easier ingress and egress for exploration. Today that ecosystem lies in tatters, and the southeastern coast of the state is receding at a rate of 25-35 square miles a year with no apparent means to halt the advancing sea.

Before the spill (or rather, volcano), TPL and other conservation groups were working to conserve and restore some of these wetlands. That need will only grow more intense. But first they need to stop the gusher.  Thanks to Larry Schmidt, TPL’s man in New Orleans, for forwarding the article.

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Netherlands study: parks promote health

October 21, 2009
Gold_Medal_Park_MN_Darcy_Kiefel

Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis - Photo: Darcy Kiefel

From the Netherlands comes another study suggesting that parks and access to nature are good for what ails you.  The strongest association between green space and health occurred within a 1 kilometer (.6 mile) radius of home and was strongest for mental health conditions.  Among physical conditions, the greatest benefit was for chronic respiratory conditions.  Periodically, TPL collects such studies for our white papers on park benefits.

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