Columbia's green spaces positively affect physical and mental health
COLUMBIA - For many, Columbia’s parks and trails offer a nice view and way to get away from the city. These green spaces don’t only provide beautiful scenery, but health benefits as well.
Becky Stidham, the assistant to the Columbia Parks and Recreation Director, said, when there are trails and parks, people are more likely to come out and exercise.
“There’s been a lot of research done nationally that if you build it, they will come,” Stidham said. “The more access people have to parks, the more they exercise.”
She noted that many people have sedentary lives and constantly sit in offices or watch television. Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services said a 2013 study showed 28 percent of adults in Boone County were obese.
“We’re getting fatter and having more diseases,” Stidham said.
She said nature is able to help people physically, mentally and emotionally.
Evan Metry, a personal trainer at Strength and Conditioning Factory in Columbia, said exercise provides great benefits for the body and the mind.
“For physical exercise you have a lower risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke, which are the three main killers in the U.S. right now as far as health goes,” Metry said.
To help encourage physical exercise, the parks department has amenities located at some parks and trail heads.
“Not everybody can join a gym, because that costs," Stidham said. "So we put exercise stations outdoors. So that becomes a free gym.”
Other amenities include a skateboard park. Stidham said not everyone will use the skateboarding portion, but it will attract families to the park to use the trails.
"It’ll draw more people there because a mom might drop her teenager off there and then decide to take a walk on the trail,” Stidham said.
Exercise doesn’t only help the physical body, but the mind as well.
“It helps with depression. It helps with your mental health,” Stidham said. “You just feel better when you’re outside with nature and wildlife.”
Metry said exercise lowers stress hormones. Lowering the stress hormone helps decrease your anxiety and helps with depression.
"We all have super fast-paced lives so our stress hormone is probably through the roof and more than what we need it to be,” Metry said. "Exercise really helps to lower that and bring it back to a base level."
The parks department said it is still trying to develop parks and trails to encourage healthy habits. It said developing such green space can take several years because of funding and dealing with property owners.
“It’s not a fast process, but once we build them we should treasure them,” Stidham said.
The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department has around 70 parks located in the city. The department said it plans to have a park every half of a mile from residential areas. The department wants everyone to have access to these parks.
“Part of our mission is to provide recreation for people of all ages, all abilities, all income levels,” Stidham said.
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