The Great Outdoors: Making It Accessible To Everyone

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December 11, 2019

People need nature. We’re seeing more and more research supporting this fact every day. Unfortunately, getting in a forest bath, trail hike or even a stroll through greenspace might be a lot easier if you live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming versus the concrete jungle of New York City—but is it fair that your zip code should have a greater impact on your health than your genetic code? That’s the problem some incredible organizations have been trying to solve.

Being near iconic public lands, national parks, and even local parks encourages us to get outside and get active. A 10-minute walk offers innumerable benefits, including lowered rates of stress, depression, and obesity. Moving our bodies, combined with the liberating feeling of being outdoors, can be life-changing.

We Need More Green: The Growing Evidence 

Are exercise habits linked to the quality of nearby parks? Penn State University researcher, Lauren Mullenbach, sought to uncover this in a study published in Preventing Chronic Disease. In the study, she examined the relationship between having access to parks and health. Her findings were astonishing.

Mullenbach found that residents of cities with better park systems were, indeed, more likely to engage in some form of physical activity on a regular basis. This supports the idea that increasing access to parks and open spaces can reduce health disparities and improve outcomes for entire communities. In fact, it’s a truth that one inspiring woman knows all too well.

Dr. Suzanne Hackenmiller is an OB-GYN and mother of two beautiful children, one of which is on the autism spectrum. When her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, she went and studied integrative medicine with Andrew Weil. She became very interested in the mind-body connection and alternative ways to heal the body.

Sadly, her husband lost his battle with cancer and Dr. Hackenmiller found herself burnt out and struggling to care for her two children. To face her grief, she got outdoors—and it changed everything. Initially, it was all about getting an adrenaline rush or going on an adventure. Over time, she noticed that reaping the benefits of the great outdoors could be much simpler than that.

Today, Dr. Hackenmiller is a certified forest therapy guide and the medical director of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Her patients and tour participants report improved mental and physical health, which has prompted her to provide e-visits for those seeking to address medical conditions more naturally.

It’s been shown that residents in cities with better park systems are more likely to engage in physical activities and experience improved health. Did you know that there’s a movement that’s growing in this country? The goal is to ensure that every citizen has access to outdoor parks and green spaces—no matter where they live.

The Trust for Public Land

Right now, more than 100 million Americans, including 28 million kids, do not have a park within 10 minutes of their home. As a result, more children are staying inside, giving their undivided attention to a screen. The ones who do venture outside might have to play on the street or in a vacant lot. These levels of inactivity among our youth are linked to epidemic levels of diabetes, obesity, and even depression.

Too often, public health is determined by residence. Our family knows this all too well. After spending five years in a less-than-pedestrian-friendly city, we moved all the way cross-country in favor of a “greener” lifestyle. We’ve all lost weight, taken up new hobbies, and have become more adventurous as a family. Unfortunately, relocating isn’t something everyone can do.

That’s why The Trust for Public Land has made it a mission to create and protect land for people and ensure we have livable communities for generations to come. So far, they’ve created or transformed over 500 parks, playgrounds and gardens—and created more than 2,000 miles of trails across the United States. How did they do all this? It helps to have great partners!

How AllTrails Is Helping

Have you heard of AllTrails? The app puts the largest collection of detailed, hand-curated trail maps—as well as trail reviews and photos—right at your fingertips! With a community of more than 11 million trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers, AllTrails has become the #1 Outdoors app for both iOS and Android.

With that type of reputation, it means something when a company like AllTrails endorses The Trust For Public Land and their effort to help connect communities with parks, trails, and open spaces in every city and town in America.

Together, they are tackling the issue on three sides—protecting land, getting people outside, and helping communities get healthier. By relying on new data and modeling techniques, they are pinpointing the ideal locations for new parks to help Americans move toward 100% park access in the most cost-effective and equitable ways.

Helping people get outside is an important venture that we can all get behind. When was the last time you took a walk and bathed in nature? How about your kids? AllTrails and The Trust For Public Land are working together to get us back to nature, so why not carve out some time every day to unplug and get out there together? Just starting with 10 minutes a day can be what helps make a positive difference in your lives!

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