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The Importance of Green

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

When we talk about the importance of green, we are talking about the act of moving through a natural space.

There are so many benefits to not only the physical health but the social and mental health too which we will discuss later through numerous studies that have been carried out over the years.

For patients who have been hospitalised, they are found to recover faster, along with the staff that look after them due to moving through natural green spaces. By creating these spaces in a hospital environment, it shows that the recovery is not only taking a clinical approach but also a holistic approach as well.

“Scientific evidence strongly supports the common-sense notion that good access to green and natural space supports health in multiple, synergistic ways. Access to the natural world is a vital element in our wellbeing, perhaps particularly when we are at our most vulnerable.”

Professor Catherine Ward Thompson, University of Edinburgh

The Japanese also have a term for it. This practice is a process of relaxation; know in Japan asshinrin yoku. The simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply can help both adults and children de-stress and boost health and wellbeing in a natural way.

We are spoilt in this area (Leicestershire), to have such beautiful areas to walk through and see the gorgeous greenery surrounding us. One of my favourite places to go for a walk is the Bluebell Woods and Common in Burbage/Hinckley. If I want an extra treat it’s with a coffee from the Acorns coffee shop.

To walk around the common, genuinely makes me feel better. I feel like the air is oxygen rich and purer but the vibe is just everything you could want. You hear the different woodland animals, the chirps of the birds, the sun shining through the leaves, it’s just beautiful.

The landscape changes so quickly from week to week, season to season and you can feel like it’s a completely different place each time you go down there. Plus, you get the added bonus of lots of gorgeous dogs strolling past you and saying a big hello. Win Win!

I also find myself gravitating to walks around the woods when I need my creativity to be activated. I’ll head down for a walk, armed with my notebook and headphones listening to showcase compositions to be inspired with my choreography ideas. It’s just so calming and peaceful.

But where’s the science I hear you say?

● A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care, (Feb 2016), also by Natural England, shows that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.

Hartig et al. (2003) have demonstrated that nature can have a “restorative and therapeutic effect on the mind”. Pretty et al (2005) found that taking part in green exercise led to improved self-esteem and a reduction in feelings such as depression and anger.

●Good evidence for ‘Green Prescriptions’, whereby a healthcare practitioner prescribes an activity in greenspace, comes from research done on a programme run by the New Zealand Ministry of Health. That study published in the British Medical Journal, found that a Green Prescription increases physical activity levels and improves quality of life over 12 months, without evidence of adverse effects. It also reported that for every ten Green Prescriptions written, one person achieved and sustained 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous leisure activity (using up an additional 1000 kcal) per week, and a 20–30 percent risk reduction in all-cause mortality (Elley et al. 2003).

In 2013, the Green Exercise Research Team at the University of Essex published a report evaluating the charity Mind’s ecotherapy programme (Bragg et al, 2013). It presents three mechanisms for how green space may confer healing effects: a possibly innate dependence on, and desire to connect with, nature”, the importance of nature in restoring attention; and the value of nature in reducing stress which by default brings other benefits to individuals. This report also discusses the importance of interacting with green space through physical exercise.

●There is epidemiological evidence that is strong enough to support calls for nature-assisted therapies to be part of care. Significant improvements were found for varied outcomes in diverse diagnoses including schizophrenia (Maller et al. 2006). To be effective this means bringing together health and environmental management sectors (Annerstedt and Währborg 2011).

●Greenspace also has proven therapeutic value within healthcare environments, facilitating good recovery and improved physical and mental health (for example Marcus 2005).

In 2005 some interesting research was carried out by the Mental Health Foundation (Halliwell) which tried to understand why GPs do not refer patients to exercise for treatment of mild to moderate depression. It found that 42% of GPs would try exercise as one of their top three strategies if they themselves became depressed, but only 5% prescribe exercise to their patients.

So, now we know the benefits of it, let’s get moving!

Why not head out for a social distanced walk with someone who you have missed over lockdown? Safely of course!

We have some gorgeous places around here but if you need some walking inspo why not head to The National Trust website to see the wonderful venues that we have around the country.

Happy Trails, gorgeous people!

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