ASLA reinforces health benefits of nature with new online guide

September 11, 2013 -  By
The ASLA launched a new online guide to educate the public on the health benefits of green spaces, such as the one captured here of the Buffalo Bayou Promenade. Photo: Tom Fox.

The ASLA launched a new online guide to educate the public on the health benefits of green spaces, such as the one captured here of the Buffalo Bayou Promenade. Photo: Tom Fox.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) introduced a new online guide that restores the notion that nature is good for us, alluding to the long- and short-term mental and physical health benefits of spending time outside.

“We created this guide to expand public awareness about the benefits of green spaces, as well as to urge people to get out and take advantage of the designed and natural landscapes available to them,” said Nancy Somerville, ASLA vice president and CEO. “This online resource fully documents the benefits of interacting with nature.”

The guide, part of ASLA’s series of sustainable design resource guides and toolkits, includes hundreds of free research studies by scientists, news articles and case studies of parks and other designed green spaces. Resources, which were vetted by expert advisers, are organized into 23 health issues that affect adults and children, including asthma, depression, chronic stress, obesity and autism spectrum disorders. Each issue is organized by a description of the health problem, how nature helps and the role of landscape architects in solving the problem.

Here are four things, for instance, one should know about obesity, nature and landscape architecture, according to the guide:

  • More than a third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Harvard Medical School calculates walking outside at a moderate pace burns 149 calories in a half hour; a combo of walking and jogging (where you jog more than 10 minutes of the half hour) burns 223 calories; and biking at a moderate speed for a half hour burns 372 calories.
  • Walking in a park or along a tree-lined street not only combats obesity but also improves cognition and mood and helps fight stress.
  • Landscape architects design walkable communities that allow people to get out of their cars.

The resource also focuses on the benefits of community parks and green spaces designed by landscape architects. Nature in urban and suburban communities offers a break from the everyday stressors, and landscape architects design green places that are safe, beautiful and restorative, thus creating access to nature in such communities. Green spaces can be designed as therapeutic landscapes too, providing healing benefits for those with a range of physical and mental health issues.

Operating as a living resource, the guide welcomes the public to submit additional research studies, news articles and case studies through e-mail them to ASLA at info@asla.org.

 

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