The Perks of Parks

When was the last time you visited your local park? It’s no secret that being outdoors has psychological benefits, but what exactly does that mean? Well, aside from the obvious benefits of ‘exercise’ in and of itself, there are other perks to parks.

A study performed by Stanford University has shown that the effects of nature on those who take in 90 minutes of nature a day, reduce obsessive thoughts of worry, decreases the effects of depression, as well as reducing stress levels and improving happiness.

The Niagara region is incredibly fortunate to be the proud owner of some of the most beautiful parks and green spaces in southern Ontario, but sadly as reported by Environment Canada, Canadians spend as much as up to 90% of their time inside. We work at our job, we work on our homes, we work towards building assets and covet that elusive and undefinable destination of ‘success’.

While much diminished by technology and modernity, our need for nature can be traced back to the early nineteenth century, with the likes of Thoreau suggesting that “we need the tonic of wilderness”. Perhaps looking at our local parks and green spaces is a way for us to find success of a different ‘nature’, that of emotional success. According to a paper published by the Harvard Medical School, the benefits of being outside for as little as five minutes are quite amazing.

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The first and most obvious finding is that your levels of vitamin D will raise. Why is that important you may ask? It increases your body’s ability to fight infection and disease, it improves your ability to lose weight (I know right?!), it affects your bone density, your hair, your emotional wellness, and the list goes on.

Aside from the immediate benefits of a ‘beautiful’ environment, which most are able to appreciate; a walk in the park reduces physical aches and pains and lowers the likelihood of stress fractures, osteoporosis, and some heart conditions.

With the opening of the Voices of Freedom Park here in Niagara on the Lake in September, perhaps now is the time to embrace the outdoors, and take in some local history. Designed by Raymond Tung in collaboration with the Town’s planning department, and storytelling installations by Toronto artist Tom Ridout, Voices of Freedom Park recognizes the contribution of early black settlers to Niagara on the Lake, as well as the abolition of slavery, and the beginning of the Underground Railroad.

There’s so much to gain from spending just a few minutes in a park. With parks such as the Voices of Freedom Park just around the corner allowing you to walk through some of our local histories, there’s no time like the present to put on your walking shoes, zip up your jacket, and take in some fresh air and vitamin D.

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