When we think of Green Living, we often think about what we consume or our behaviors. We look at our carbon footprint, the long-term environmental impact of our vehicles, the farming practices of the people growing our produce, and so on.
But sometimes with all that examination of what we drive and what we eat, we forget to look at the actual green spaces around us.
Study after study has found that living in areas with easily accessible green spaces reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. When combined with a lifestyle that includes good cardio workouts like racquetball, that risk is even further reduced.
Arguments regarding the health benefits of a diet that is full of fresh vegetables have long since been put to bed. When someone talks about a healthy diet, there is a common understanding of what that means.
This is not to say there’s only one way to encourage sustainability in your food choices. Vegetarian, Omnivorous, and Vegan lifestyles can all focus on green and sustainable consumption.
Focusing on a green diet is good for the planet and good for your health. Just like driving a car with low or zero emissions. Yes, it’s good for the environment, but your health is also thankful. They help prevent smog and lower the long-term impacts of climate change.
When it comes to your health, there are other factors that can help you out — particularly cardiovascular health.
Environmental Risk Factors
Organizations like the American Heart Association and their equivalents around the world have looked at how the environments we live in effect our cardiovascular health. Their studies have all come to the same conclusion — having easy access to green space is good for cardiovascular health.
These studies all had slightly different focuses. Some looked at refugee populations, some compared along socioeconomic lines, some focused as much as possible on location only. Overall, all of them found that there are benefits to living near green spaces.
Different factors regarding where people live can cause them to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular issues. For instance, living in areas with an abundance of fast-food, a high population density and less access to fresh produce. Other factors like secondhand smoking and air pollution can also be more difficult to avoid in those types of environments.
After a long week of work, are you going to take a long trip to a grocery store or just go with something in your area?
People tend to stay near their homes. Long trips either in a car or on public transportation for a reason other than work are fairly infrequent for most people. So, avoiding environmental risk factors for cardiovascular health is extremely difficult.
Looking at that, it would be easy to assume that the socioeconomic factors that lead people to live in these areas would be more to blame for the cardiovascular issues faced by these populations.
The AMA found that, when variables such as sex, race, neighborhood deprivation, smoking habits, use of drugs (prescriptions used to lower cholesterol), and roadway exposure were balanced out in studies, people with access to green spaces still had a lower risk for cardiovascular illness.
Benefits of Green Space
The strange thing about these studies is that their authors aren’t sure why green spaces lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. But because other factors can be eliminated or balanced out, researchers across the globe have come to the conclusion that green spaces do lower that risk.
People that live in green areas tend to have lower levels of catecholamines in their urine — elevated levels of these hormones which are released in high volumes when a person is experiencing stress have been shown to indicate a high risk of cardiovascular issues.
A few hypotheses have been put forward to explain why people who live in areas with accessible vegetation have a lower risk for cardiovascular illness.
Some researchers think that reduced exposure to air pollution may explain the difference. Others suggest that an inverse relationship between green living areas and mental health stressors could use more examination.
Something that many researchers agree about is that green spaces encourage physical activity. Whether giving people space where people can go for a walk or a run or a field for a pick-up game of football with friends, having a place to be active helps people to stay active.
That is the biggest takeaway from these studies. Physical activity is a great way to feel good and keep your body healthy. People who live near green spaces have more environmental encouragement to stay active. However, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be physically active.
If you don’t live in a green space, make a day out of it and well worth it. If you live in a very cold climate, try a gym that offers more than a weight room.
Exercises like yoga that encourage deep breathing help to destress practitioners, resulting in lower concentrations of catecholamines. Aerobic exercises help increase physical stamina, allowing for longer walks and more comfortable hiking.
If you can incorporate a social aspect to your workout, you build community. A game like racquetball is an excellent supplement to the benefits that come from living in green areas. It offers a full-body and fast-paced workout with social interaction.
Keep it Green and Keep it Active
When all is said and done, people who live in green areas have lower risks of cardiovascular disease. Those risks can be further reduced by engaging in an active lifestyle.
If you are looking to move, find an area with easy access to green spaces. If you live in an area without green areas, make the effort to spend time in those areas when you can. Look into joining community efforts to increase neighborhood green areas.
No matter what, find a way to get active and stay active.
This article was written by Jason F. Hopkins
Jason is a business consultant with a passion for writing. Doing his research, exploring, and writing are his favorite things to do. Besides that, he loves playing his guitar, cooking, and traveling.