Spending time in the natural environment results in improvements to mental, physical and social health.
Research highlights the link between the environment and our health, including a 2010 project undertaken by Deakin University, which found that psychological benefits stem from engaging with outdoor open spaces.
These benefits include improved mood, lower levels of anxiety, lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and increased physical activity.
Active in Parks, a Healthy Parks – Healthy People Program, is fostered by People and Parks Foundation, Barwon Medicare Local, G21 and Parks Victoria, while Medibank Community Fund is the program’s major sponsor.
Active in Parks co-ordinator Jayde Mulder said the initiative aimed to connect people to their local parks and outdoor spaces to enhance their physical and mental health.
“Parks provide a place for community connectedness, establishing social relationships and engaging in physical activity which can all have positive effects on people’s physical and mental health.
“The Active in Parks initiative provides various outdoor programs for all ages including, exercise classes, walking groups and adventure activities for kids which are all fantastic ways of staying active and engaging with your local environment.”
Coastal volunteering is another great way to experience these physical and psychological benefits.
The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) recognises this link and works to immerse schools and other groups in the natural coastal environment.
The committee also supports and works with a variety of environmental volunteer groups.
GORCC conservation officer Georgina Beale said coastal volunteering not only benefited our environment, but our health and wellbeing as well.
“Coastal volunteering increases physical fitness and gives people a sense of belonging and pride.”
Volunteers can participate in a range of conservation tasks including weeding, revegetation, and monitoring native birds and animals. “Volunteer groups such as Friends of Taylors Park, Friends of Eastern Otway’s and Friends of Queens Park in Lorne are always looking for extra hands to help protect and enhance the environment,” Ms Beale said.
“Get involved! It’s not just good for the coast, it’s great for you, too.
“From meeting new people through to getting some exercise, there are so many reasons to get involved.”
For more information about Active in Parks, head to activeinparks.org.
This article featured in the Surf Coast Time’s fortnightly Green the Coast column. View the article here.