SHE Foundation - "la Caixa" Foundation
Green zones encourage healthy lifestyles


What is the colour of our surroundings? Are we surrounded by green zones or is our habitat dominated by concrete and asphalt? These are not idle questions. In a recent post, we told you that being surrounded by greenery improves our health, literally. Studies also indicate that ease of access to a green zone acts as a catalyst for good habits and people who live close to the natural world are more likely to engage in physical activity on a regular basis.

In 2008 an exhaustive study called Green Space Scotland Research Report was published. This established a relationship between the physical activity of the British population with proximity to and the more or less green features of parks, school grounds and public open space where they lived. The results identified a link between access to green space and an increase in levels of physical activity.

The research results also showed a direct relationship between the quality of and access to green space and the amount of time that children played in parks or that older people spent walking. However, the studies also revealed that the environmental attributes associated with walking to get from one place to another differed from those associated with walking for exercise or recreation.

What motivates us to walk?

As the report points out, some aspects have more of an influence than others on whether more or fewer people walk in cities. The size of the urban area, the overall quality of the neighbourhood and its safety all have an important association with, for example, children walking to school. But there are other factors which are able to persuade us not to use vehicles and turn us into active people. Environmental aspects such as climate, ease of access to public open space, such as beaches and parks, and the existence of hiking trails (the so-called healthy routes) are crucial. Living in a neighbourhood where it is easy to walk or which has cycle lanes is very clearly related to residents walking or cycling.

Indeed, the existence of green space is an effective stimulus which encourages exercise and increases vitality. In addition, open-air activities also have a positive effect on psychological well-being; exposure to green space helps mitigate stressful situations and acts as a form of balm against behavioural disorders (ADHD) in children.

In any case, we do not need to live in the countryside or an exclusive residential neighbourhood to lead an active life in natural surroundings. All we need do is locate the nearest green zones in our city or take advantage of weekends and holidays to get in touch with nature to exercise in healthier surroundings.

Sources and further information:

Green Space Scotland Research Report 2008
Las zonas verdes como factor de calidad en las ciudades (Green zones as a quality factor in cities, in Spanish) by F.G. Lopera, 2005


Photography Jon-Flobrant – Unplash