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ASLA's New Online Guide Educates Public on Health Benefits of Green Spaces

A growing body of research proves what we all know to be true—nature is good for us—and a new online guide launched today by the American Society of Landscape Architects showcases the long- and short-term mental and physical health benefits of spending time outside.

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"We created this guide to expand public awareness about the benefits of green spaces, as well as to urge people to get out and take advantage of the designed and natural landscapes available to them," said Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, vice president and CEO of ASLA. "This online resource fully documents the benefits of interacting with nature."

The guide, part of ASLA's series of sustainable design resource guides and toolkits, includes hundreds of free research studies by leading scientists, news articles, and case studies of parks and other designed green spaces. Resources, which have been vetted by a team of expert advisors, are organized into 23 health issues that affect adults and children, including asthma, depression, chronic stress, obesity, and autism spectrum disorders. Each issue is organized by a description of the health problem, how nature helps, and the role of landscape architects in solving the problem.

For instance, here are four things you should know about obesity, nature, and landscape architecture:

  • More than a third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Harvard Medical School calculates that walking outside at a moderate pace burns 149 calories in a half hour; a combo of walking and jogging (where you jog for more than 10 minutes of the half hour) burns 223 calories; and biking at a moderate speed for a half hour burns 372 calories.
  • Walking in a park or along a tree-lined street not only combats obesity but also improves cognition and mood and helps fight stress.
  • Landscape architects design walkable communities that allow people to get out of their cars.

The resource focuses on the benefits not only of natural wilderness but also of community parks and green spaces designed by landscape architects. Nature in urban and suburban communities can provide great benefits, as it offers a break from the everyday stressors in our busy day-to-day lives. Landscape architects play a critical role in creating access to nature in these communities and designing green places that are safe, beautiful, and restorative.

This guide shows communities how they can work with landscape architects to better integrate nature into the built environment. Greener neighborhoods, with easy access to parks and trails, offer more opportunities to get outside and exercise, whether it's biking, jogging, or walking, or using an outdoor fitness facility. Green spaces can also be designed to be therapeutic landscapes, providing healing benefits for those with a range of physical and mental health issues.

This guide is a living resource so the public is invited to submit additional research studies, news articles, and case studies. Please e-mail them to ASLA at

Comments September 11, 2013 12:27 AM
I think it is great that this kind of information has been collected. It is useful if you are looking to see how ecological exposure can improve health related to one specific ailment. However, it does not feel entirely conducive to browsing. It would be nice to have tabs to navigate from one topic to another instead of opening a slew of web pages. September 11, 2013 9:19 AM
I am not a landscape architect nor involved in urban planning but I find many articles in the archives of ASLA I am continually inspired. Thank you!
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