Sunshine and Greenspace, by Marc Sorenson, EdD.
A part of my life, albeit I did not fully savor nor appreciate them.
Sunshine and greenspace should be loved by all. Greenspace is an area of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes. In my case, there was not much winter participation outdoors and there was not much green. There was school study inside, snow and ice outside and not much greenery. Thus, thus colds and other irritating illnesses ruled my life. In summers, I spent my life on our ranch, working hay fields, chasing cattle bare-chested and doing other sundry chores. In addition, “green” was all around me in summer, since green fields of alfalfa corn and grass were ubiquitous. Consequently, my health was perfect! Of course, because of the Sunshine that blazed much of the day, there were other benefits. I was the recipient of nitric oxide, dopamine, circadian-rhythm entrainment, serotonin, endorphin, BDNF and vitamin D. King Kong could not have felt much better than I felt.
It is apodictic that my good feelings and perfect physical rhythms were due to sunshine and greenspace. Yet, I believe I could have chosen to be outside more in the winter.
My parents raised me on the Utah/Nevada border. Hence, there was plenty of snow, but also plenty of sun in the winter. The nearby mountains and evergreen forests furnished a lot of green year-round. UVA light, lacking in the capacity to produce vitamin D, produces nitric oxide, serotonin and helps to reset the circadian rhythms. It might have enhanced my dark mood in winter. Nevertheless, due to my distaste of cold weather, I stayed inside to study and spent time in the gym.
It was not until much later that I learned the value of sunshine and greenspace.
Now it seems like there are a plethora of studies that praise the value of greenspace. I added the word “sunshine” in this paper because of my belief that majority of the benefits occur due to sunlight. The most eye opening and impressive of those studies is one called, The Health Benefits of the Great Outdoors. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Greenspace Exposure and Health Outcomes. It was a meta-analysis (highly respected and statistically believable). In addition, it used data from 103 observational and 40 interventional studies. It also measured 100 different health outcomes for people who participated (or did not) in greenspace areas and activities.
The remarkable results and health benefits of the great outdoors.
Here are the highly impressive and significant results of increased greenspace exposure.
Greenspaces associated with reduced risk of the following measurements:
- Salivary cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone).
- heart rate (-2.7 bpm)
- diastolic blood pressure (-1.97)
- HDL cholesterol (-.003)
- Low-frequency heart rate variability (-.06)
- pre-term birth (-13)
- type II diabetes (-.28)
- All-cause mortality (-.31)
- Small size for gestational age (-.19)
- Cardiovascular mortality (-.16)
In addition, there was an increased incidence of good self-reported health.
The researchers also reported, “The incidence of stroke, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, asthma, and coronary heart disease were reduced.” “For several non-pooled health outcomes, between 66.7% and 100% of studies showed health-denoting associations with increased greenspace exposure including neurological and cancer-related outcomes, and respiratory mortality.”
Save the Children!
In conclusion, one recent study on children shows that mental health problems, addiction, and neurotic or stress related disorders reduced between 40-50%. This same study showed that greenspace appeared to lower the risk of personality disorders, bipolar and mood disorders, and schizophrenia.
The message of course, is to get outdoors where it is green. Then, sunshine and greenspace can work together for wonderful health benefits.