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goNewHavengo is encouraging New Haveners to get outside and explore the city's hidden gems! The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives. Now, more than ever, getting outside is important! Spending time in nature can be a great way to be physically active and get some much-needed fresh air, while also staying safely away from others. Let's get outside!
New Haven's Hidden Gems
New Haven is home to many great parks, nature preserves, and trails.
Do you have a favorite spot? Tell us about it here to help others looking for fun places to visit! Simply open the link on your mobile device and submit your location!
Looking for a place to spend time outdoors? Check out this map of locations fellow New Haveners enjoy!
Check out these New Haven Hidden Gems that are favorites of our friends at Elm City Cycling!
Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
In the midst of social distancing measures around COVID-19, getting outdoors is one of the few remaining activities left. Spending time in nature benefits both our physical and mental health.
What qualifies as nature can range from hiking in the forest, to filling your house with plants, to viewing a leafy scene from your window. The general assumption is that more is better, but even those who can't or don't feel comfortable going outside can still benefit from nature's healing aspects.
By the Numbers
Americans spend an average of 87% of their time indoors. Children today spend less time outdoors than any previous generation, averaging 4-7 minutes per day, opposed to the recommended 60 minutes. While the more time you can spend outdoors, the better, even spending 20 minutes in nature can produce benefits!
The outdoors is a great place to be physically active, whether you're walking, hiking, biking, rollerblading, or gardening! Here are some ways being outdoors benefits your physical health:
Spending time outdoors is associated with decreased incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular mortality, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and better immune system function
Phytoncides - airborne chemicals produced by plants - increase our levels of white blood cells, which help us fight off infections
Sunlight hitting the skin kicks off the creation and activation of Vitamin D, which is essential for fighting certain conditions like osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and heart attacks. We get 90% of our Vitamin D from the sun!
Spending time outdoors can provide relief from stress, depression, and anxiety - especially during these times of increased worry and tension. Here are some ways being outdoors benefits your mental health:
Our heart rate, muscle tension, and production of stress hormones reduce
Sunlight tends to elevate people's moods
Your concentration and creativity will improve
Spending 20 minutes in nature gives your brain an energy boost equal to one cup of coffee!
Nature provides free aromatherapy; the smell of roses, freshly cut grass, and pine create a sense of calm
Psychologists say that spending time in nature helps us forget societal pressures, allowing us to focus on more important things like family, community, and sharing
Children today spend less time outdoors than any previous generation, averaging 4-7 minutes per day, opposed to the recommended 60 minutes. Spending time outdoors is essential for children, especially during a time when social activities are limited and children may not be going back to school in the fall. Here are some ways being outdoors benefit children:
Children who spend time outdoors are more able to handle and regulate stress throughout their lifetime. They are less angry, less aggressive, and less impulsive.
Children are more than twice as active when they are outside
Improved motor development
Lower obesity rates
Promotes curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking - children who spend more time exploring nature see improved learning outcomes
Children with ADHD appear to focus better after being outdoors
Elementary students who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness
Here are some fun outdoor activities to do with your kids:
Build nature sculptures with twigs, leaves, cones and rocks
Press leaves into play dough and notice the fun patterns it creates!
Set up a mud kitchen using old pots, pans, and utensils
Describe what you see, hear, or smell to smaller children in strollers to help them learn about the world
Bring story time outside
Go on a nature scavenger hunt or start a nature collection
See how many different types of plants and animals you can find or collect rocks, acorns, and leaves
Exploring Nature at Home
Not everyone has access to green spaces. Predominantly white neighborhoods have 11 times more green space than neighborhoods with at least 40% of residents being people of color. 100 million people in the U.S. don't have access to a park within a 10-minute walk from their home.
While being outdoors makes it easier to maintain an appropriate social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are still not comfortable being in public spaces - and that's okay!
Here are some ways that those who can't or don't feel comfortable going outside can still benefit from nature's healing aspects:
Take a walk down your street
Look up at the sky
Fill your home with plants
Start an indoor herb garden
Watch a nature documentary
Active transportation is any self-propelled, human-powered mode of transportation, such as walking or bicycling. Walking or biking to the store is a great way to be physically active, get outside, and get your errands done! Active transportation is not only good for your health, it's also good for the environment, the economy and your community!
Making walking and biking safe and convenient creates opportunities to build physical activity into our daily routines!
Passenger vehicles are a major contributor to pollution. They introduce significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants into the air. Transportation contributes to more than 50% of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost 25% of the hydrocarbons emitted into the air. Poor air quality creates serious health risks for people as well. Creating opportunities to walk or bike will reduce the number of personal vehicles on the road, therefore reducing the volume of pollutants emitted into the air, reducing ozone layer depletion, and conserving the natural habitat and non-renewable resources.
Active transportation creates a more connected community, improves quality of lief, catalyzes small business development, increases property values, invites tourism, and encourages corporate investment leading to job creation. It also saves families money by alleviating costs associated with owning or leasing a car (i.e., parking, maintenance, gas).
When options for active transportation are made available, the most vulnerable populations are among the groups that benefit most.
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