Professional Practice

Adult: Heart Health

Health Benefits of Nature Header

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease, resulting in one in four deaths or 26.5 million Americans per year. Annually, heart disease costs Americans $108.9 billion in health care and lost productivity. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 68 million Americans, which is one in three individuals. The annual cost in the United States is $3.5 billion in lost productivity and $47.5 billion in health costs.

How Nature Helps

According to a study published in the International Journal of Health Research, exercising outside has greater health benefits than exercising inside or in a typically urban setting. The research revealed that people engaging in “green exercise” were shown to have lower blood pressure, higher self esteem, and improved mood compared to indoor exercisers.

Regular cardiovascular exercise helps us keep our hearts and circulatory systems strong and healthy. Cities designed with safe sidewalks and bicycle lanes encourages us to go outside and engage in routine exercise, whether it’s walking to the corner store or riding your bike to work. 


"The Relationship between Trees and Human Health: Evidence from the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer," American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2013

"The Mental and Health Outcomes of Green Exercise," International Journal of Health Research, 2005

Effects of Horticultural Therapy on Mood and Heart Rate in Patients Participating in an Inpatient Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program,” Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, 2005

Pet Ownership, Social Support, and One-year Survival After Acute Myocardial Infarction in Cardiac Arrythmia Suppression Trial (CAST),” American Journal of Cardiology, 1995 

Adult-Heart-Health-Buffalo-Bayou.jpgASLA 2009 Professional General Design Award of Excellence, Buffalo Bayou Promenade, SWA Group, Houston, Texas / Image credit: Tom Fox


Active Living
"Parks are Part of Our Healthcare System," The Dirt blog
How Cities Use Parks to Improve Public Health, American Planning Association

Health Benefits of Hiking and Trails, American Hiking Association

List of Gardens in Healthcare and Related Facilities, Therapeutic Landscape Network


American Trails

The Trust for Public Land

Role of the Landscape Architect

Landscape architects design parks like Buffalo Bayou Promenade in Houston and Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, which provide a city’s residents with places to exercise in a variety of ways – running, biking, walking and kayaking, all things that contribute to a healthy heart.

Parks and streetscapes are also designed to have more trees, which cools the air in cities and towns and make it more pleasant to be outside, making it more likely we’ll get out and be active.

Case Studies

Buffalo Bayou Promenade, Houston, Texas, SWA Group

Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia



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