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Living In A Greener Neighbourhood Could Lower Your Risk Of Death: Study

Not just parks but also streetside trees and lawns could have health benefits, study suggests

Trees stretching their canopies over city streets and grass tickling the sidewalk near your home are more than just pretty, they could actually be helping you live longer, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick used census and tax data to track 1.3 million non-immigrant Canadian adults living in the 30 biggest cities across the country, from Victoria to St. John’s, over 11 years starting in 2001. They measured the amount of greenery from trees, shrubs, grass and other plants within 250 metres (about two blocks) of the study subjects’ homes, using postal codes and satellite data. And they found that as the amount of greenery increased, people’s risk of death decreased “significantly” from natural causes.

“There was a lot bigger effect than I think any of us had been expecting,” said Dan Crouse, a health geographer and lead author of the study published this week in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

‘Really, just having trees around where people are living is really important.’
– Dan Crouse, University of New Brunswick

Using NASA’s Aqua satellite, the greenery was measured on a scale of 0 to 1. (Zero represented bare ground; 1 was complete coverage by dark green leafy plants.) The study found that each 0.15-point increase in greenness near the subjects’ homes was associated with an eight to 12 per cent decrease in the risk of death.

Crouse said the link between greenness and lower death rates remained even after researchers accounted for the effects of air pollution.

While previous studies have shown that exposure to green space and parks can improve mental health and in some cases physical health, the researchers say this is the first big study to show a clear link between green surroundings and a lower risk of death.

It also suggests that green spaces don’t have to be actual parks in order to have health benefits.

“What we’re able to show with this study is really just having trees around where people are living is really important,” Crouse said.

The study found that the positive effect of green surroundings was greater for people in middle age than in other age groups.

The effect was also greater among those with higher incomes and more education, and among men compared to women. The researchers aren’t sure why.

The study also couldn’t tell what kind of greenery was being measured, although trees gave a higher score than grass. Nor could it explain why exposure to greenery had that kind of effect — researchers didn’t know how much access people had to the green spaces or whether they were getting more exercise in greener areas, for example.

View of nature

But Crouse said there are benefits to living near green spaces such as golf courses even for people who don’t use them.

“That space is still representing an absence of traffic congestion, an absence of the noise and pollution from cars. It’s going to have a real cooling effect in an urban area,” he said. “Just having a view of nature from your window … can be restorative. There’s a lot of ways that the greenness could be benefiting your health.”

Dr. Gillian Booth is a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital who recently found that people who live in more walkable city neighbourhoods have lower rates of diabetes and obesity. She says the design of Crouse’s study looks sound, and she has used similar techniques in her own work.

She added that the results make her wonder what it is about green surroundings that are lowering death rates, and what threshold of greenness is needed to get those health benefits.

“Where do you draw the line and say there’s insufficient green space? And how much should you invest in it?” she said. “I think this is really exciting work in that it raises these types of questions.”

The study, she added, highlights that the way we design our communities can have a profound influence on residents’ health: “The potential reach is huge in terms of the number of people who could be benefiting from these health effects.”

By Emily Chung, Science and Technology Writer CBC News       Oct 12, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca
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Get Outside Every Day. Here’s Why.

By: Jordyn Cormier   May 25, 2016

It’s easy to get holed up in our dens of technology, but stepping outside, nature or not, is the best thing for you in oh so many ways. Whether your suffering from frequent colds or you are simply in a creativity rut, the outdoors may be just the fix you’re looking for.

Ditch your stress. Time spent outside, specifically time spent immersed in nature, can bathe you in meditative relaxation. In Japan, it is known as forest bathing, but you don’t need to get deep into a forest to reap benefits. Just stepping into a park can confer immediate effects. In fact, those who spend more time outside experience lower blood pressure and a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol. If you’ve noticed a new crop of gray hairs emerge along your hairline, maybe it’s time to get yourself a little more fresh air.

Reboot your brain. After some time spent outside, you’ll feel more productive, more focused and may even experience an improvement in your memory. Being outside can especially rekindle the spark of creativity that has dissipated from your daily routine. Above all else, those who spend more time outdoors also experience lower incidences of depression. Think of the outdoors as a soothing balm for your brain. Get as much of it as you can.

Get more physically fit. This is a simple equation, really. You can either be sitting indoors or you can be galavanting outdoors. One takes years off of your life. The other adds quality to your life. You’ll use your muscles more, you’ll smile more, you’ll push yourself harder when you get outside. Addicted to your gym membership? Consider the outdoors a free gym membership that you shouldn’t squander.

Reset your eyes. If your job entails you stare at a screen under flickering florescent lights for 8 hours a day, you need to get outside more. The natural light of the outdoors relieves the eyes from the strain of screens and artificial lighting. For children especially, spending more time outdoors may decrease the risk of development of nearsightedness. Keep your eyes healthy by taking a gander outside on the regular.

Become superhuman! Okay, so maybe you won’t suddenly be able to fly, but getting outside on a regular basis seriously jolts your immune system. According to studies, people who spend more time outside have a significantly higher immune function, including an increase in natural killer cells, than those who spend their days indoors. Natural killer cells are powerful agents in the prevention of tumors forming in the body, so the importance of getting out into nature cannot be overstated. Even if you’ve found yourself simply succumbing to colds more frequently, maybe more outdoors time is just what the doctor ordered.

Load up on sunshine. Going outside into the sunshine allows your body to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D, if you haven’t heard it enough, is crazy important for your health. It helps to stave off depression, strengthen bones and can decrease your risk of heart disease. Getting ten minutes of direct sunlight on your bare skin each day allows your body to produce around 10,000 IU, which is more than ample. Check out my recent post on vitamin D for more information on the safest ways to get it.

Reconnect with your roots. If you’re looking to get more in touch with yourself and with your natural surroundings, just get outside. If you spend enough time in nature, you will begin to sense subtle shifts in your environment. You’ll notice fluctuations in your energy. You’ll become more open and calm when you feel how incredibly vast the outside world is. In a way, spending more time outside puts you more in tune with our surrounding world. Nothing is wrong with a little perspective now and then.

According to an analysis published in the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology, North Americans spend only 8 percent of their time outdoors! Don’t be a statistic. It’s time to live your life to the fullest and get outside.


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5 Wellness Trends That Are Worth Your Time

by Carey PetersMarch 2, 2016

Let’s face it, the age of dieting and fat-free culture is over. It’s 2016, and instead of looking for a magic pill to make us healthy, this is the year to shift our cultural mindset to a healthier lifestyle — a lifestyle that is fun, easy, and works for our bodies and the planet.

This means changing the way we think about health and wellness and opening our minds to alternative ways of nourishing ourselves, which actually includes way more than food alone.

It’s time for a radical paradigm shift in the way we “do” health, because major illnesses like heart disease and diabetes can be prevented by simple lifestyle and diet changes.

But just because the changes are simple doesn’t mean they’re easy. Here are the health trends that are actually worth paying attention to.

1. Ditching diets

The majority of people who lose weight regain it — and sometimes more — within a few months.

Yet we are so convinced that there’s one magic diet out there that will keep the weight off, so we keep looking for it. The truth is, though, that obsessing about what we eat (which is essentially what diets are) only creates anxiety and restriction, which is counterproductive to losing weight and feeling happy.

Enter health coaches.

A health coach is professionally trained as a master of habit change. Having a health coach in your corner is the difference between knowing what to do to get healthy (“I should really drink more water …”) and actually doing it (“I drank 2 liters of water every day this week!”).

Health coaches don’t enforce rules; they offer guidance and goal setting. They don’t punish and shame; they support, stretch, and hold clients accountable so that success around your health goals is inevitable.

Instead of pushing dieting, points, or calorie counting, it’s about discovering the perfect lifestyle for our unique body, one that is sustainable for a lifetime.

2. Embracing healthy fats

For decades, fat-free products have lined our supermarket shelves and become the American norm. But what many people don’t realize is fat-free foods make up for the lack of fat with something — usually sugar.

Many “fat-free” products labeled as such are misleading and unsatisfying because they lack the fat our bodies need and crave. We end up eating more and more of these foods to try to feel satisfied but never really do.

We’ve also done ourselves a huge disservice as a culture by labeling all fats as bad.

Certain fats like hydrogenated oil (aka trans fats) should be avoided. These are found in many products with long shelf lives from crackers and frosting to deep-fried food and microwave popcorn.

It’s good to get in the habit of reading the list of ingredients on food labels. Look out for the word “hydrogenated” — that’s the killer clue.

Healthy fats, on the other hand, can lower cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease and offer myriad health benefits from better reproductive health to glowing skin.

Healthy fats like the ones found in avocados, nuts, olives, and wild fatty fish are crucial for our well-being, and they’re back in fashion. So eat them with pride. We do!

almonds

3. The power of fresh air and green space

We’ve been so focused for so long on food and how it affects our health that we’ve neglected the health benefits of our natural environment — which offers us totally free, 24/7 nourishment for our souls.

It’s time to take an hour a day to shut down screen time, take a break from the office cubicle, and get outside. Our bodies and minds crave fresh air, sunshine, and green space just like it craves food.

So take that hour-long lunch break, walk to a nearby park, and breathe in the air. Even 15 minutes of fresh air (even if it’s city air or it’s raining) is more refreshing than an air-conditioned office.

On weekends make a point to get into nature — go for a hike in the woods, ride a bike along the pier, have a picnic in the park — and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your cravings disappear and how recharged your system feels.

4. Modest meat consumption

We’re not suggesting everyone swear off meat forever, but our current level of animal consumption is simply not sustainable for the planet or our bodies — especially meat from factory farm animals pumped with antibiotics and unnatural (often harmful) diets.

The meat industry is also one of the highest contributors to global warming due to the methane gases emitted by livestock waste, which converts into greenhouse gases. An enormous amount of water is also needed to produce meat — it takes approximately 1,300 gallons of water to make 1 pound of beef!

There are plenty of ways to consume nutrient-dense, non-animal protein sources like pumpkin seeds, non-GMO tofu, chia and hemp seeds, quinoa, garbanzo beans, and lentils. Think of animal protein as a condiment — sprinkle in a little grass-fed, organic animal protein here and there.

5. Coffee + grass-fed butter for better digestion

Our society is obsessed with caffeine, and coffee is our drug of choice. The truth is that caffeine combined with a diet low in healthy fats and fiber can wreak havoc on our nervous system and digestive function.

If quitting caffeine is just not an option, then try the new “Bulletproof” coffee from health expert Dave Asprey. It’s a blend of high-quality coffee beans and grass-fed butter.

The fats in the butter slow the absorption of the caffeine and prevent that caffeine rush, replacing it with a slow release of high energy for hours. Combine Bulletproof coffee with a breakfast that’s high in healthy fats and fiber, and you’ve got yourself a trendy (and healthy) start to your day.