FitQuid
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FitQuid

Make the most of your local park

Photo by: Ignacio Brosa

Being outside, apart from being fun, can be extremely beneficial to your health — such as enjoying better fitness levels, lower stress, and boosting your immunity. While your local park can’t really offer a TV screen and air conditioning, being active outdoors can improve your well-being in a variety of ways, boosting your mental and physical health. You don’t even need to spend large amounts of time outdoors either, according to a study published in 2019, the likelihood of reporting good health and wellbeing improved significantly after spending at least 120 minutes in nature. The benefits still hold even if you split up those two hours across the day.

According to a 2013 study, participating in physical activities in the great outdoors engages people more. Apparently, ‘green exercise’ alters our perception of effort, therefore we are able to achieve higher levels of intensity of exercise when we’re in nature. By making the experience easier and more enjoyable, being outdoors is a crucial element in staying motivated to do exercise. Additionally, evidence suggests that nature increases the enjoyment of exercise by offering social interaction.

A 2016 study conducted in the U.S.A. found a relationship between high levels of vegetation and lower levels of mortality; especially cancer, respiratory, and kidney disease mortality. Spending time outdoors, such as habitual walking, also lowers blood pressure and has beneficial effects on the metabolism, as well as reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Nature, and green spaces, make us feel better overall, reducing depression and anxiety symptoms. Some factors include the protective effect of sunlight, as it helps the body produce vitamin D, as well as maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Try absorbing some sunshine when visiting your local park, but remember to wear sunscreen and protective clothing! Not only that, but nature can make you feel more relaxed when you take your time to notice your surroundings, especially when there’s higher biodiversity.

Photo by: Josephine Baran

A large amount of evidence for a link between health and green spaces shows how important it is to spend time in parks and greenery.

Explore the connection yourself by visiting the silent spaces at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE). Turn off your electronics, and sit or stroll among the plants and wildlife without speaking. Without distractions or expectations, enjoy the calm of simply being in a green space.

Take care of yourself: While spending time outdoors is wonderful, it’s important to keep the weather in mind. When it’s too hot for too long, there’s a list of things to keep in mind provided by the NHS. Make sure to stay hydrated, as dehydration is one of the main risks to look out for during a heat wave, as well as overheating and heatstroke. Avoid excess alcohol, and keep out of the sun between 11 am and 3 pm (also avoid exercise then too). Wear sunglasses and hats, as well as routinely apply sunscreen to protect your skin, even if you plan to sit in the shade. If you start to feel unwell, it might be heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

I invite you to start a daily habit of visiting and connecting with green spaces near you, as a way to relieve the stress of daily life — I know how much it helps me. I created a challenge on FitQuid to spend at least thirty minutes each day at a local park. I noticed the difference from day one, being surrounded by nature gives a sense of relief and joy you can’t find anywhere else, and I couldn’t wait to go back the next day.

This made me think of the “Park Meet and Greet” challenge, which involves visiting a local park at least twice a week with a friend. It felt like the next step in growing and levelling up.

The challenge involves visiting a local park at least twice a week with a friend.

Photo by: Tomáš Hustoles

It has been a week today and I am happy to report that it has been a life changer. I have made new friends, feel healthier, and couldn’t be any happier. Get your challenge hat on and use FitQuid to get into the habit of engaging with green spaces. Share your experience with me through @FitQuid on any of the social media platforms, and I will share it in my upcoming blogs!

I can’t wait to hear from you 😊

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Auri Carballo

Auri Carballo

Psychology graduate, invested in helping communities.