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New Research Examines Health Benefits of Turf

17 Jan 2017

 

– Well maintained lawn and green space areas have a positive benefit on public health outcomes

– Research links the importance of green space and turf from urban planning and health perspectives

– A new $2.3M study will gather evidence-based data on the ‘lifetime’ health-effects of green space

 

In Brief:

Turfgrasses play a critical role in the general health and welfare of our nation and as a result of increasing urbanisation and deforestation, they are becoming more and more important for human health.

Studies have shown that lawns and parks provide areas of cool, clean and calm that are critical to improved health; they are oases that are somewhat more free of the stresses of daily life in an urban environment.

New research being carried out in Australia aims to provide measurable evidence of the health benefits of green space and the minimum amount of local green space – parks, gardens, trees and turf needed for favourable health and societal outcomes.

New research to examine health benefits of turf and green space

It has long been widely recognised that large open greenspace areas with healthy lawn and turf provide many positives to the community, especially in regards to health.

The obvious benefits of sport and leisure, access to safe areas for increased activity and relaxation are typical of many city-park-type settings; yet these spaces are becoming increasingly more important as land values in Australia skyrocket and house-block sizes are squeezed and high-rise units spring up in many quarters.

The traditional backyard is slowly becoming a thing of the past and these days the public park becomes the go-to place for much outdoor activity.

Studies have shown that lawns and parks provide areas of cool, clean and calm that are critical to improved health; they are an oasis of green in urban sitting, often cooler and quieter and somewhat more stress-free than the hardscapes of surrounding areas.

New research being carried out in Australia aims to provide measurable evidence of the health benefits of green space and the minimum amount of local green space – parks, gardens, trees and turf needed for favourable health and societal outcomes.

Lawn Solutions Australia member Turfgrowers have contributed funding towards a world-first study announced late last year that will look at measuring the actual benefits of green space has on the community.

The $3.2 million, five-year project entitled Greener Cities, Healthier Lives has been funded by Research Council Horticulture Australia’s Green Cities fund in partnership with the Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab, which is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong (UOW).

The research is hoped to provide the first systemic evidence on the benefits of green space from birth to older age and ultimately give industry and policy makers some solid numbers for the amount of local green space – parks, gardens, trees and turf – that are needed for favourable health and societal outcomes.

These results will build upon the growing body of evince that points to turf and lawns as being a most important contributor to health in our urban environments:

  • Turf reduces noise and heat which in turn helps reduce stress
  • It improves air quality and helps keep our cities and towns clean
  • Every major city uses grass in parks and other public spaces as an essential part of the city landscape and to keep cities clean and local environments safer
  • When people live or work close to nature they are more relaxed and therefore less susceptible to high blood pressure, stress and depression
  • Families who walk in the park report better quality of family life and reduced problems with child behaviour
  • Hospital patients with a view of parkland recover much quicker than patients who don’t
  • Residents of high rise housing with access to open green spaces enjoy a range of health benefits including better mental health, immunity to disease and greater productivity in their working lives
  • It provides a healthy clean environment that’s ideal for people of all ages. Whether your need is raising a family, walking the dog, playing professional sport or just having a kick around with friends, there’s no better surface
  • Whatever you use it for, turf is the safest surface for outdoor leisure activities, games and sports. It reduces the incident of personal injuries through its cushioning ability
  • Children in particular are much better protected when playing and falling on grass than any other surface
  • Not only is turf ideal for cleaning up blood and bacteria associated with sports usage, but it also helps with spills from general outdoor entertaining whether it be a BBQ or the kids picnic birthday party
  • And of course, mowing a lawn also gets you outdoors and provides valuable cardiovascular exercise.
  • Psychologically, the colour green makes us feel closer to nature by being beautiful, restful and relaxing
  • Beauty and nature are essential parts of the human experience and turf grasses play a vital part of the landscape with which we like to surround ourselves

 

The health benefits depicted here are only a small part of the turfgrass story with many other environmental and economic benefits realised through its use.

Natural turfgrass has made a resounding comeback as a favoured surface covering as quality parks and green space areas become more sought-after in denser urban settings.

Once pilloried as being water-guzzling and requiring large quantities of fertiliser and nutrients with high maintenance costs, natural turf has made a significant resurgence; as better management and greater appreciation for its benefits comes to the fore.

 

References

  1. Bedimo-Rung AL, Mowen AJ, Cohen DA. The significance of parks to physical activity and public health: A conceptual model. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005;28(2):159-168.
  2. Cohen DA, McKenzie TL, Sehgal A, Williamson S, Golinelli D, Lurie N. Contribution of public parks to physical activity. American Journal of Public Health 2007;97(3):509.
  3. Babey SH, Hastert TA, Yu H, Brown ER. Physical Activity Among Adolescents: When Do Parks Matter? American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2008;34(4):345-348.
  4. Sugiyama T, Leslie E, Giles-Corti B, Owen N. Associations of neighbourhood greenness with physical and mental health: do walking, social coherence and local social interaction explain the relationships? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2008;62(5):e9.
  5. Giles-Corti B, Broomhall MH, Knuiman M, et al. Increasing walking: How important is distance to, attractive-ness, and size of public open space? American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005;28(2):169-176.
  6. Sullivan WC, Kuo FE, Depooter SF. The fruit of urban nature. Environment and Behaviour 2004;36(5):678.
  7. Rappe E, Kivelä S, Rita H. Visiting outdoor green environments positively impacts self-rated health among older people in long-term care. Hort Technology 2006;16(1):55-59.
  8. Barton J, Pretty J. What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi- study analysis. Environmental Science and Technology 2010;44(10):3947-3955.
  9. Martin KE. School Classroom and Child-level Correlates of Children’s Class-time and Recess Physical Activity Perth: School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia; PhD Thesis; 2010.
  10. Perry CK, Saelens BE, Thompson B. Rural Latino Youth Park Use: Characteristics, Park Amenities, and Physical Activity. Journal of Community Health 1-9.
  11. Cohen DA, Ashwood JS, Scott MM, et al. Public parks and physical activity among adolescent girls. Pediatrics 2006;118(5):e1381.
  12. Takano T, Nakamura K Watanabe M. Urban residential environments and senior citizen’s longevity in megacity areas: the importance of walkable green spaces. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2002;56(12):913.
  13. Kaczynski AT, Potwarka LR, Saelens BE. Association of park size, distance, and features with physical activity in neighbourhood parks. American Journal of Public Health 2008;98(8):1451.

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