Ahead of Women’s Health Week (2nd – 8th September), new Parks Victoria research has found Victorian women are overlooking an easy solution to improve their health and wellbeing.
The survey asked respondents about their mental health, exercise habits and their understanding of the mental and physical benefits of nature.
The findings revealed a huge 82 per cent believe spending time in nature positively affects mental health, however alarmingly:
• 40 per cent of women visit a park six times a year or less with one in five (20 per cent) visiting a park less than once a year
• More than one third (39 per cent) choose to mainly exercise indoors – at home, in a gym or another facility – when over 80 per cent would like to exercise outdoors more than they currently do
With more than half of female respondents (53 per cent) reporting having experienced a mental health condition, the research looked at barriers preventing more people from exercising in nature. The research found:
• 50 percent of women don’t get outdoors due to lack of time
• 32 per cent chose to walk on suburban streets above green spaces
Parks Victoria’s Health and Community Activation Manager, Shauna Jones says, “research suggests spending time in nature improves concentration, learning, problem solving and creativity. It also has physical and mental health benefits.”
“To combat the barriers and realise the benefits of nature, plan your day to include time outdoors. Hopping off the train one stop earlier or walking to the park during your lunch break can help overcome those time constraints.”
Other key tips for getting out into parks include:
• Organise to walk with a friend, it’s more fun, improves motivation and some women report feeling safer
• Join a walking group. Go to http://park-walks.eventbrite.com to find walks in a park near you, including specialised Welcome Walks during Women’s Health Week and throughout spring
• Plan ahead – if you’re worried about taking a wrong turn or not sure what you’ll see on the way, visit parks.vic.gov.au or your local council website for information about nearby parks
• Take it slowly. Start with a shorter walk close to home and increase duration and difficulty as you get more confident, fitter and motivated
“Don’t just consider getting into parks during Women’s Health Week, make stepping out in nature part of your regular routine year-round.”
“Unlocking better health is as simple as a walk in the park. Don’t wait for your doctor to prescribe it if they haven’t already.”
The research, commissioned by Parks Victoria, surveyed 1000 Victorians, 18 years and older, from metropolitan Melbourne and Victorian regional areas.