The Guardian reports a new YouGov survey commissioned by Groundwork which reveals the stark fact that 30% of 16- to 24-year-olds from lower income families say they never visit a local park – more than double the number from higher income families. The importance of green spaces to young people’s social and physical development is well understood.
The evidence ranges from outdoor play patterns established in childhood being directly linked with adult health to a study demonstrating that girls’ self-discipline improves if they have views of trees and vegetation at home. Most adults can pin formative experiences in their youth to a playground, a woodland, even a single tree – places where young people can escape the adult world and develop a sense of independence and identity.
We agree that being outdoors and active is very important, whatever age you are, with fresh air (as opposed to the all too common polluted sort) being important as well. There is doubt in all such data, however, with the benefits of ‘green’ and ‘exercise’ being confused. A short walk in the park might not give you the right sort of exercise, but it might do you good, psychologically. A session in the gym might bring physical health benefits and make you feel good, but get you nowhere near a park.