Study ties good health to green spaces

Source: North
Kamilah Russell of Paterson has been taking her young children to East Side Park  to engage in what she describes as a dying recreational ritual: They lay a blanket under a tree, unpack some food and have a picnic. A new study indicates that Russell is doing her children a favor.
University of Southern California researchers found that 9- to 18-year-olds who live near green space — parks, ball fields, golf courses and the like — exhibited significantly less aggressive behavior than those who live in neighborhoods with less green space. They found the same results even when accounting for such variables as family income, age, gender, race and educational background.
The study adds to an expanding body of research that indicates contact with green space can benefit human health, both mental and physical. It can lower stress and help children with attention-deficit disorder. And as an easy and often free way to exercise, it can improve physical health, reducing the medical issues related to obesity.
In Morris County, Goryeb Children’s Hospital at Morristown Medical Center has a program called Kid-FIT. Members of the hospital’s medical staff recommend and prescribe physical activity in parks and will connect a family to a county park close to them.
“We don’t know if it’s literally looking at the green, or because greenery is outside and more physical behavior reduces aggressiveness,” says Diana Younan, a doctoral candidate at USC and one of the authors of the report. “Or it could be more indirect. Perhaps it reduces the mother’s stress, which reduces a child’s aggressive behavior. Perhaps it could be that green space reduces air and noise pollution, and maybe that reduces aggression. These are all avenues for future research.”
“The study makes sense,” says Elliot Figueroa of Little Ferry and Overpeck Park. “I bring the kids here and they play, ride bikes — it gets them out of the house. It de-stresses them, and de-stresses me, too. You can still see buildings and hear the turnpike, but it feels like you’re someplace else, not in the middle of Teaneck or Ridgefield Park.”
Sonia Andreola of Leonia couldn’t agree more. She sat at the edge of Overpeck Creek the other day waiting to kayak with her husband, Mario. “I love this park,” she said. “It’s so peaceful just to be able to come and enjoy some nature after work. It’s a way to get kids away from their cellphones and computers.”
Mario Andreola said visiting the park “is like a retreat. It’s like a vacation at home…Nature itself gives you good vibes.” Then he pointed at the water.
“You can’t be angry looking at that,” he said.

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