If you live near forests, parks or other green spaces, you’re more than just fortunate. You may actually be healthier because of it.
Middle-aged and older adults who live in greener neighborhoods have less risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those whose surroundings have fewer green spaces. That’s the conclusion of researchers in Spain who studied long-term health trends among residents of the United Kingdom.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions including high blood sugar, obesity and high blood pressure. It puts patients at higher risk of diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.
But researchers noted nature can provide a solution. Long-term exposure to green spaces helps to prevent metabolic syndrome and reduces waist size, high blood pressure and excessive fat in the bloodstream.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers reviewed data from more than 6,000 people between the ages of 45 and 69. Participants had four examinations in 14 years, including blood pressure, blood chemistry and waist measurements. Satellite images established the amount of greenery in their neighborhoods.
Researchers believe the link between health and green spaces has to do with opportunities for exercise and less air pollution. The beneficial effects were also more pronounced among women, leading researchers to theorize that they reap the benefits of spending more time in their neighborhoods than men.
Researchers noted the findings could also be a starting point for further studies about which types of vegetation have the biggest positive impact on health.
So go get your daily dose of leafy greens — in the neighborhood around you.