Public Health Benefits
The public health benefits of parks are substantial. Researchers claim that higher concentrations of community recreational areas like "public parks, play spaces, hiking/biking trails and exercise facilities" can cause a 25 percent increase in the number of people who are physically active at least three times a week (Ewing, 2006). In another study, subjects who regularly used their local parks were "nearly three times as likely as others to achieve recommended levels of activity, regardless of how it was measured" (Giles-Corti, 2005). Greenways also yielded positive results, prompting an increase in exercise among 55 percent of survey respondents that used a new trail in southeastern Missouri. Greenway users in Indiana reported similar increases (Gies, 2006). Parks even bridge gaps between public health and social equity by providing exercise facilities to low-income residents who may find gym fees prohibitive (Gies, 2006).
Often, access to parks goes beyond promoting physical activity. A study of hospital records over 10 years revealed that "patients with tree views had shorter hospitalizations, less need for painkillers, and fewer negative comments in the nurses' notes, compared with patients with brick-wall views" (Sherer, 2006). In a study of Chicago public housing residents living in architecturally identical buildings, researchers found that residents living near vegetation "were significantly more effective in managing their major life issues than were their counterparts living in barren environments" (Kuo, 2001). Similar psychological benefits have been seen across geographies and in various demographic groups (Bedimo-Rung, 2005).
In searching for a residence, do you consider proximity to parks and/or open space a priority?