Most of us don’t need research to understand that time in nature is an automatic mood-booster. However, when it comes to children’s health Amber Fyfe-Johnson, assistant professor at Washington State University, says “access to nature and the benefits that come with it are a necessity, not a nicety.”
Children’s Health and Access to Nature
WSU’s review of nearly 300 studies demonstrates that green space near homes and schools was strongly associated with improved health outcomes in children. Professor Fyfe-Johnson, the study’s lead author, reported that “By looking at the full scope of existing quantitative evidence, we were able to see the importance of ready access to nature for both physical and mental health outcomes in childhood.”
Access to Green Space and Nature in Phoenix
Now that we know access to nature is essential to our children’s health let’s examine our resources here in Phoenix. Of the 100 largest cities in the United States Phoenix ranks 56th in the category of best park system, according to a 2020 ranking by The Trust for Public Land. Authors of the ranking also found that 48% of Phoenix residents live within a 10-minute walk of one of 182 city parks. Sounds like we’re off to a good start, let’s take one specific example here in Phoenix.
South Mountain Park and Preserve, Phoenix AZ
A major highlight of the Phoenix Park System is the more than 41,000 acres of desert parks and mountain preserves. With more than 200 miles of trails, everyone from novice hikers to equestrians and experienced mountain bikers can find a suitable option. The trails and all they hold invite our children to experience, question, and reflect. They are the perfect classroom to learn important lessons in physical education, science, and health.
One of the most fantastic resources in the Phoenix Park System is South Mountain Park and Preserve; in it we have 16,000 acres of Sonoran Desert set aside for residents to explore, play, restore, and exercise. The mountain’s fascinating geological and anthropological history provide visitors the opportunity to climb remainders of million year old magma domes or share space with petroglyphs left 100’s of years ago by the Hohokam.
The plant and wild life are some of the most unique in the world; our Saguaros only grow in the Sonoran Desert. South Mountain and the Sonoran Desert are also known for the Western Diamondback Rattle Snake and extreme high temps. For these and other safety reasons it’s a good idea to start your desert adventures with an experienced guide.
Outdoor Adventures in Phoenix
Ready to travel through a natural rock tunnel, discover a petroglyph canyon, or conquer a challenging hike to the summit? Perhaps your family needs to ditch the digital noise and listen to what nature has to say. If you’re new to the valley and your family is ready to explore your amazing backyard, join me – a trail-conquering personal trainer, desert naturalist, and veteran – for outdoor adventures in Phoenix. Let’s explore, play, and discover the natural world. For more inspiration to make your way to more green spaces check out my post on 5 Reasons Outdoor Classrooms Rock.