More trees, healthier heart!


A walk in the park a day, keeps the doctor away! A recent study from UNSW shows that more trees and urban green spaces reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.


We all know green spaces can make us feel calmer, more connected to nature and less lonely.

They are important community gathering places that help build social ties and promote physical activity. But did you know they can have a direct benefit on our circulation and heart health?

A recent study from UNSW Sydney has confirmed that a walk in the park a day, keeps the doctor away. It also showed how different types of urban green spaces have different impacts and have endevoured to start identifying the ones which matter most.

The research, led by Professor Xiaoqi Feng from UNSW and Professor Thomas Astell-Burt from the University of Wollongong, examined over 10,000 Australian adults living in apartments or houses and analysed the amount of nearby green space against ten years of hospitalisation and cause of death data. “We were interested in where Australians are living… and what type and quantity of green space may have impact on people’s hearts,” said Prof. Feng.

For those living in houses, there are significant benefits to the heart and cardiovascular system associated with green spaces. However, the most interesting finding was that not all green space is equal. A larger amount of tree canopy, but not open grass, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease-related mortality. Why? There is not one single cause according to the authors, but multiple factors that can contribute to this result. One example could be that trees provide shade and cooler temperatures which make streets and parks more inviting to spend time in.

Interestingly, for those living in apartments, green space wasn’t associated with better cardiovascular health and more grass nearby was actually connected to less physical activity. There could be many reasons for this, but one theory is that green space presence does not necessarily mean that the area is appealing or allowed to be visited – often times it is there for the sole purpose of embellishing the complex or apartment block.

In recent years, there has been a greater focus on the health impact of green spaces, and as cities continue to grow and get increasingly crowded, it is more important than ever. Considering the rapid urbanisation we are seeing in Australia, the results of this study are an important step forward in helping us to harness the power of nature to improve our health and wellbeing.

“We need to make sure our urban planning complements existing trees and enhances green space qualities with community input, to enable current and future generations to thrive,” Prof. Feng said.


Source: Media release ‘Leafier communities, healthier hearts: study (FED)’; ‘Leafier Communities, Healthier Hearts: An Australian Cohort Study of 104,725 Adults Tracking Cardiovascular Events and Mortality Across 10 Years of Linked Health Data’.

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