Suburbanisation has had a significant impact on the availability of green space in many areas around the world. Concrete and metal have replaced the natural environment — and our health is suffering for it.
The development of towns and cities is needed for us to lead a better quality of life. However, in many ways, we are robbed of a quality of life by living in air-polluted cities, low-density housing, commercial centres, and other developments, which has led to the fragmentation and loss of natural habitats and green spaces.
Suburban development has provided us with city infrastructure and more mobility. We have the means and the freedom to visit neighbouring cities and beyond. But suburban sprawl comes at the cost of agricultural land and the removal of trees and important vegetation.
An absence of nature has been shown to be a contributing factor to high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. Moreover, suburban development has caused the loss of biodiversity and natural wildlife.
Suburbia has become a way of life. It influences how we live, work and socialise. And despite the benefits of glamorous cities with all their culture and excitement, more suburban green spaces would encourage healthier lifestyles.
How Modern Lifestyles Are Impairing Our Health
There is growing evidence to suggest that modern lifestyles can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.
Many modern jobs require long periods of sitting, which can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.
The availability of fast food and convenience foods has made it easier to consume a diet high in calories, saturated fat, and added sugars. This can contribute to weight gain and an increased risk of chronic diseases.
Modern lifestyles can be fast-paced and demanding, which can lead to chronic stress. Prolonged stress can have a negative impact on physical and mental health, including increased risk of heart disease, depression, and anxiety.
Lack of Sleep
Many people struggle to get adequate sleep due to busy schedules, technology use, and other factors. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to a range of health problems, including decreased immune function, increased risk of obesity, and impaired cognitive function
The use of technology, such as smartphones and tablets, can contribute to mental fatigue, disrupted sleep patterns, and decreased social interaction, which can impact mental and emotional well-being.
While modern lifestyles can certainly have negative impacts on health, it’s important to remember that there are many factors that contribute to overall health and well-being.
Adopting healthy habits such as regular exercise (such as walking, running and cycling), a balanced diet, stress reduction techniques, and adequate sleep can help to mitigate some of the negative effects of modern lifestyles. It’s also important to seek medical care and support when needed to address any specific health concerns.
Walking Cures All Ailments — Almost All?
A guest essay published in the New York Times in March makes the observation that walking can cure all manner of cures. Titled, Whatever the Problem, It’s Probably Solved by Walking, the author Andrew McCarthy champions “the power of ambling” as a cure for multiple health issues.
Whilst we advocate that walking has multiple health benefits and can be a helpful strategy for managing conditions, we also acknowledge that walking is not a universal solution for every issue.
Walking can be a beneficial activity for physical health, mental well-being, and stress reduction. For example, studies have shown that walking can help to reduce anxiety and depression, improve cardiovascular health, and boost cognitive function.
Walking is also a helpful ally for the immune system and helps to improve sleep quality. It can reduce feelings of fatigue and improve overall mood and energy levels.
However, walking may not be the most effective solution for every problem. For example, if you are experiencing chronic pain, a leg or back injury, or a medical condition that limits your mobility, walking may not be a feasible or safe option. In these cases, it’s important to work with a healthcare professional to develop a personalised treatment plan.
It’s also important to recognise that while walking can be a helpful tool, it may not be a cure-all for every problem. For complex issues such as mental illness or chronic health conditions, it’s important to seek appropriate medical care and support in addition to walking.
The Case For Green Spaces
There is a strong case to be made for the creation of more green spaces for walking in suburban areas. In addition to the numerous health benefits, encouraging people to walk more often has potential environmental benefits. Green spaces also help to bring communities together and increase the value of properties in the area.
There are many ways to create more green spaces for walking in suburban areas. Converting unused land into parks with water features, walking trails and cycling tracks will encourage more people to become active.
Vegetation also helps to keep our cities cooler, improve air quality, and reduce stormwater runoff. But they are particularly beneficial for the health and well-being of less wealthy groups that do not have the finances to enjoy amenities in the city.
Adding green spaces to existing developments, such as incorporating walking trails into new housing developments will also encourage more people to walk to work or the shops.
These efforts can be supported by local government, community organisations, and individual residents who recognise the benefits of green spaces for walking and prioritise their creation.
Whilst some effort is being made to introduce green spaces into suburban areas, green spaces with designated areas for safe walking would be more than welcome.