Parks and green spaces are more than simply a way to beautify neighbourhoods and cities. They provide places for people to relax and play outdoors, interact with nature, and are habitats for plants and animals. Ranging in size from small neighbourhood parks to large provincial or national parks, they are essential components in healthy environments and beneficial for physical, mental, spiritual, social and environmental health.
Statistics Canada released a report on the use of outdoor spaces by Canadians. The effective use of outdoor spaces can contribute to increased fitness, wellness and overall health. The report found that regardless of the type of activity, almost three out of four Canadian households (72%) reported that someone in the household had participated in outdoor activities close to home.
Respondents to the 2013 Households and the Environment Survey were asked about the activities in which they participated. Most Canadians either walked or biked in their parks. There are some who did not participate (DNP) in physical activity.
The age composition of a household can influence the level of physical activity of its members.
- Seniors-only households were among the least likely to have participated in outdoor activities close to their home (56%)
- Households composed of adults and both children and teens were high users (82%)
- Households with children were the most active (84%)
What is surprising is that households’ participation in outdoor activities close to home increased as the annual income increased, from 56% for those with annual incomes of less than $20,000 to 88% for households with annual incomes of $150,000 or more. The portion of DNP also decreased with income levels.
Taken together, the data points an compelling picture that access to nearby parks is needed to stay healthy. It also underscores the importance of city planning in contributing to a healthy living environment.