Greenways and trails not only encourage friends, families and communities to interact with each other and nature, but they also provide a venue for physical activities such as walking, jogging, running, in-line skating and biking. The associated physical and psychological health benefits of these activities are significant. Greenways and trails help to:
Facilitate Physical Activity
A landmark report by the U.S. Surgeon General found that “Americans can substantially improve their health and quality of life by including moderate amounts of physical activity in their daily lives.” It also found that “health benefits appear to be proportional to the amount of activity; thus, every increase in activity adds some benefit.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a report highlighting the impact of inactivity on the alarming increase of overweight children. The report underscores the importance of creating our communities in a way that children will engage in physical activity as a part of their daily lives. “The Built Environment: Designing Communities to Promote Physical Activity in Children.”
Improve Psychological Health
A growing body of research suggests that mere contact with the natural world improves psychological health. Green settings have been shown to relieve feelings of anxiety and improve our ability to cope with stressful situations. In some cases, natural spaces provide therapy for conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder and improve cognitive function and work performance. In addition, greenways, trails and parks provide safe places for kids to play, which is vital in brain development in young children.
Reduce Negative Health affects Associated with Air Pollution
Greenways and trails serve as highways for alternative means of transportation. Therefore, automobiles are used less frequently, resulting in lower overall carbon dioxide levels. Additionally, increased tree density along these greenways can mitigate air pollution by filtering pollutants out of the air, and therefore decreasing the number of respiratory illnesses experienced by many people.
Decrease Frequency of Automobile Accidents
Greenways and trails also provide safe routes for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel. This separation from traffic can reduce the number of vehicle-pedestrian and vehicle-bicyclist related accidents.
For additional study results on the health benefits of trails click here.
Article: “Take a hike and call me in the morning,” The Washington Post