Today is National Take a Walk in the Park Day!
We have lots of lovely parks in and around Bradford such as Lister Park, Bowling Park, Horton Park and many more. My research as a PhD student at Born in Bradford looks at which features of a park we enjoy and which features can encourage use. We want to find this out because we can use this information to design our parks more effectively to get more people using their local park. At the moment, most research has focused on the size and proximity to a park in relation to its use, and very little research has looked at the effect of features present and the overall quality. My work [http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0013916516681391] so far has demonstrated the current evidence for feature changes to a park to promote use is limited and poorly evaluated.
We want people to use their local park more because it can positively impact our health in all sorts of ways. Parks are places where we can do lots of things like play sports, meet friends and enjoy nature. All of these activities are good for our health and well-being so we encourage you to visit your local park, not only today but throughout the year too!
Playing sports in a park is a fun way to increase your levels of physical activity. Whether this is playing football, cricket, going for a jog, or even just playing frisbee – raising your heart rate for 30 minutes 3 times a week contributes to a healthy lifestyle and reduces risk of a number of diseases. In fact, research [http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-10-456] shows exercising in a green space like a park can actually be better for you than exercising in a ‘synthetic’ environment like a gym. Why not get involved with parkrun in Lister Park and Horton Park on a Saturday morning? These weekly 5km runs are free and open to everybody. Visit parkrun.org.uk for more information.
Parks are often places where friends and family can meet up and enjoy a day out. Socialising with others in this way and building relationships is important for our mental health and well-being. Parks are also places where we can come into contact with people from all kinds of backgrounds, ages and religions, and this can strengthen a sense of community. Lots of free events and activities are happening in our parks this year, such as the Dragon Boat Festival at Roberts Park, the Tour De Yorkshire in City Park and the Sculpture Trail at Lister Park. Check out http://www.visitbradford.com/events/ to see what might be happening near you.
Parks provide a space away from the city to appreciate nature and wildlife. Parks provide a space away from the city where the natural environment can be enjoyed and you can see all sorts of animals like birds, squirrels and ducks. The natural environment can work to reduce your stress levels and improve your attention. In fact at Born in Bradford we have done research [http://jech.bmj.com/content/70/3/253] to link greener environments with reduce levels of depression in an area.
Finally, parks are not just good for us but good our environment as a whole. The presence of trees and plants reduces the urban heat island effect, protects in the event of a flood and reduces surrounding air pollution. So, parks not only keep us healthy but the wider environment too!
Please enjoy a walk in your local park today!
Hannah Roberts, University of Leeds