Unlocking better health is as simple as a walk in the park

Thursday 5 September, 2019

Ahead of Women’s Health Week (2-8 September), new research by Parks Victoria has found Victorian women are overlooking an easy solution to improve their health and wellbeing.

In a survey, respondents were asked about their mental health, exercise habits and their understanding of the mental and physical benefits of nature.

The findings revealed a huge 82 per cent believe spending time in nature positively affects mental health.

However, alarmingly:

  • 40 per cent of women visit a park six times a year or less, with one in five (20 per cent) visiting a park less than once a year.
  • More than one third (39 per cent) choose to mainly exercise indoors (at home, in a gym or another facility) - when over 80 per cent would like to exercise outdoors more than they currently do.
  • More than half of female respondents (53 per cent) reporting having experienced a mental health condition.

The research also included barriers preventing more people from exercising in nature. Parks Victoria’s Health and Community Activation Manager, Shauna Jones said, “Research suggests spending time in nature improves concentration, learning, problem solving and creativity. It also has physical and mental health benefits.

“To combat the barriers and realise the benefits of nature, plan your day to include time outdoors. Hopping off the train one stop earlier or walking to the park during your lunch break can help overcome those time constraints.”

Other key tips for getting into nature

  • Organising to walk with a friend. It’s more fun, improves motivation and some women report feeling safer.
  • Join a walking group. Parks Victoria offer free regular guided walks at parks across the state. Visit our guided park walks webpage to learn more and reserve your spot. 
  • Plan ahead. If you’re worried about taking a wrong turn or not sure what to expect, explore our park pages for inspiration, or visit your council website for local information.
  • Take it slowly. Start with a shorter walk close to home and increase duration and difficulty as you get more confident, fitter and motivated.

“Unlocking better health is as simple as a walk in the park. Don’t wait for your doctor to prescribe it if they haven’t already", said Shauna.

The research, commissioned by Parks Victoria, surveyed 1,000 Victorians, 18 years and older, from metropolitan Melbourne and Victorian regional areas.

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