Six reasons to reconnect with nature

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      (This story is presented by Metro Vancouver.)

      City life can be fun, but the fast pace of modern living can also be exhausting and draining. So it’s particularly important that we make the time to get outside and reconnect with nature—especially when you know the significant benefits it can have to your health and wellness.

      Below are some of the reasons it’s time to embrace the great outdoors.

      Fresh air

      Living in B.C., we are lucky to have access to some of the most stunning nature, right on our doorsteps. Metro Vancouver alone is home to 22 regional parks, so there’s bound to be one near you.

      Regional parks are great places to go for a walk, breathe fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of nature.

      A 2019 article in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research found that as little as 20 minutes in a park, even without exercise, is enough to benefit a person’s health and well-being.

      In Metro Vancouver’s parks, you and family members can not only find magnificent hiking trails, you can also regain inner peace alongside the ocean, rivers, streams, and lakes.

      Pacific Spirit Regional Park straddles the Pacific Ocean and Burrard Inlet. Iona Beach Regional Park is located where the Fraser River meets the sea. Crippen Regional Park on Bowen Island includes Killarney Lake and extends all the way to Snug Cove. And Boundary Bay Regional Park offers fabulous vistas of the waters separating Delta from Point Roberts.

      So what’s stopping you? Get out and explore!

      Being outside is good for your health and overall wellness.

      Screen out your stress

      With the majority of us spending our working lives in front of a computer, it has become more important that we make a conscious effort to take a break and reconnect with nature, when we can.

      But the screen time required for our jobs only tells part of the story. The unfortunate reality for many of us is that screens consume most of our waking hours—from the mindless morning scroll to hours at a desk to evenings spent lounging in front of the TV.

      If this all sounds too familiar, you are not alone. But cutting back on your recreational screen time and getting outdoors is well worth considering and can be very beneficial to a person’s well-being.

      According to the World Health Organization being outside can positively impact our ability to manage challenges like anxiety and depression.

      “Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being, and aid in treatment of mental illness. Some analysis suggests that physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators.”

      Even after a long day at the office, when the pull of a Netflix binge seems far more tempting than a walk in the park, getting outside might just give you the boost you need. That’s because the great outdoors can be exceptionally restorative and can even help combat mental fatigue, so that you feel more energized and creative.

      Happier and healthier by nature

      Reconnecting with nature doesn’t just help your mental well-being. Children and adults who spend more time outside are physically healthier, too.

      According to Statistics Canada, regular activity—especially outdoors— among young people is related to improvements in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body composition, bone density, fitness, and academic achievement.

      Life in the slow lane

      Making time to get outside is the perfect opportunity to slow down and explore nature’s bounty. And that’s particularly important for those of us used to the fast pace of city living. Especially when you consider that areas that have greater forest coverage have lower mortality rates.

      Dr. Matilda van den Bosch of the UBC School of Population Health and Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, coauthored a report on green spaces for the World Health Organization. It found that disadvantaged people benefit even more from having access to green healthy spaces. Access to green spaces is particularly beneficial to children because it can promote more environmentally conscious lifestyles from a young age.

      Of course, it’s fun for the family, too. Cycling, bird watching, trail running, picnicking—all that and more is easily within reach in Metro Vancouver.

      The bigger picture

      Green spaces aren’t just beneficial to human wellness, they also make a positive contribution to ecological and species diversity in the region.

      The 22 regional parks are just part of the story. They’re part of a larger system that includes regional park reserves, ecological conservancy areas, and greenways—all located within the traditional homelands of the Coast Salish First Nations. The 13,557 hectares of natural habitat managed by Metro Vancouver’s Regional Parks is larger than the City of Vancouver’s total area.

      And there is a variety of programs so that you can get involved, too. You can join park interpreters who reveal the natural world through exploration and discovery or lend nature a helping hand by removing invasive plants, monitoring wildlife, planting native trees and shrubs, conducting bird surveys, and more.

      Great return on investment

      In addition to all the benefits listed above, reconnecting with nature in these parks is a fantastic way to stay connected with what’s offered by your regional government. Metro Vancouver not only provides and maintains this natural splendour, it also ensures that we all enjoy clean air, topnotch drinking water, and many other valuable public benefits. We’ll drink to that!

      For more information, the schedule of programs, and events, as well as volunteer opportunities, visit the website. Follow this series to discover more about Metro Vancouver’s regional parks.