Diving Deep Into the Healing Power of Parks

Have you ever noticed how much happier you are after spending time outside? Being in nature provides a noticeable boost to our mood and overall wellness. Despite this fact, USA Today reports that some studies show nearly 90% of people spend 22 hours a day indoors. If getting outside is vital for our well-being, how can we access more convenient outdoor space? 

Fortunately, the need for local parks and other green spaces is getting more attention every year. Parks aren’t just a decorative addition to your neighborhood. They provide a host of benefits that the whole family can enjoy.

Mental and Physical Health Link

When we discuss wellness, it’s tempting to focus on mental and physical health as separate issues. While they indeed occupy their respective spaces, there is a strong connection between them. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes in its Healthy People 2030 that mental and physical health are closely linked. “Mental disorders like depression and anxiety can affect people’s ability to take part in healthy behaviors. Similarly, physical health problems can make it harder for people to get treatment for mental disorders.” 

Addressing one area of well-being will positively impact the other. If you’re looking for ways to spend time improving your quality of life, focus on activities that address mental and physical health for the most benefit.

The Importance of Green Spaces

Spending time outside is one of the simplest activities that benefit both mental and physical health. Green spaces are healing for many reasons.

Outdoor exercise takes your physical activity to the next level. U.S. News and World Report notes that “performing a workout outside yields benefits beyond what you would experience by completing that same workout indoors.” Exposure to sunlight (vitamin D) and fresh air help your immune system function properly. Changes in terrain and environment can encourage different muscle use than stationary equipment.

Mood improvements are noticeable with outdoor recreation. Scientists at Harvard University note that increased vitamin D and light exposure can help boost your mood. Similarly, being outdoors has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, even if you spend time sitting on a park bench or along the shore.

Being outside can also improve your cognitive function. The American Psychological Association points out that “spending time in nature can act as a balm for our busy brains.” With so much time immersed in overextended screentime and noisy area interaction, nature allows us a space to rest. When you return to work or other commitments, you may find you’re better able to focus and complete complex activities.

The Unique Power of Parks

While all green spaces provide wellness benefits, parks are significant in our modern-day world.

Parks provide a community hub for outdoor events. Unlike National Parks or forests, parks are located in cities and towns and draw from a surrounding community. Research shows that having a local green space is an important community asset to promote “spaces for physical activity and social interaction.” Social interaction itself provides many wellness benefits. Participating in park activities like guided walks, morning yoga, or a gardening club can amplify the physical and mental benefits you’d get from completing those activities alone.

Parks can reinvigorate a town. Having revitalized green spaces in cities can help everyone feel more connected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes transforming unused space into green areas has “been shown to reduce overall neighborhood crime by 13% and reduce nearby residents’ feelings of depression by 41%.” Reduced noise pollution and improved air quality are other environmental benefits that parks provide in or near urban areas.

Parks provide essential space for children. Ideally, children need an hour of physical activity every day. Children tend to spend more time being active outside, away from electronics and other distractions. Parks are a perfect way to give children the convenient outdoor space they need for this essential play. Researchers in Denmark recently concluded that the “impact of green space throughout childhood is significant” regarding mental and physical health outcomes.

Parks are varied and multi-use. Unlike other outdoor spaces dedicated to one or two activities, parks provide space for various functions. You can enjoy physical activities like biking, running, and swimming. Parks offer benches and shady spots for relaxation if you need a calmer pursuit. People of all ages can find something to do at a park that fits their needs and abilities.

The next time you’re looking for a boost to your mood or a nice breath of fresh air, head to your local park. Remember that your time spent there is significant work for your overall wellness.


This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.

From the Web