City Beautification is More than Meets the Eye

By: Dan Burke Perez

Many enjoy urban green spaces for their beauty and for the opportunity to sit, relax, and take in the scenery. Remarkably, urban green spaces and city beautification efforts have real impacts on both the physical and mental health of communities.

Urban green spaces may be nice places to relax, but their calming effects go further than that.  Being in view of green spaces, for instance, has been linked to lower heart rates as well as lower levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure1,2,3. Just looking at a green space relaxes our bodies and our minds. Evidence also suggests that people who live closer to parks and gardens have lower levels of stress4. The stress reducing effects of urban green spaces make them valuable additions to a community that can reduce the risk of stress-related conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.

Being around green spaces can improve our physical health in the long run5. Though we are still learning about the many ways the environment around us can influence our well being, there is more and more evidence to suggest green spaces can be designed to improve and protect our health. Growing up near landscapes with a rich variety of native plant species has even been linked to a reduced risk of developing childhood asthma6. This is thought to be because these plants provide a habitat for beneficial microbes that improve human health6. Though not always obvious at first, the built and natural environments around us can impact our well being in some surprising ways.

Parks and green zones are colorful, lively places that improve our moods and keep us active. There is ample evidence to suggest that interacting with nature—specifically plants—positively impacts our health5. Being in a park with a variety of plant types has been shown to increase feelings of positivity and well-being among visitors7. On top of these subtler effects, proximity to green spaces improves the well-being of communities by encouraging physical activity and social contact8.

Trails, parks, community gardens, and other green spaces can be beautiful additions to a city that also improve our well-being in many ways. As we learn more about the relationship between green spaces and the health of our cities, it becomes more and more clear that city beautification is more than meets the eye.

  1. Roe, J. J., Thompson, C. W., Aspinall, P. A., Brewer, M. J., Duff, E. I., Miller, D., … Clow, A. (2013). Green Space and Stress: Evidence from Cortisol Measures in Deprived Urban Communities. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(9), 4086–4103.
  2. South, E. C., Kondo, M. C., Cheney, R. A., & Branas, C. C. (2015). Neighborhood Blight, Stress, and Health: A Walking Trial of Urban Greening and Ambulatory Heart Rate. American Journal of Public Health, 105(5), 909–913.
  3. Yuki Ideno, Kunihiko Hayashi, Yukina Abe, Kayo Ueda, Hiroyasu Iso, Mitsuhiko Noda, Jung-Su Lee and Shosuke Suzuki (2017, August 16). Blood pressure-lowering effect of Shinrin-yoku (Forest bathing): A systematic review and meta-analysis, 3-4. Retrievedfrom
  4. Grahn, P., & Stigsdoter, U. A. (2004, November 04). Landscape planning and stress, 15. Retrieved from
  5. Grinde, B.; Patil, G.G. “Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being?” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 6, no. 9, 2009, pg. 2332-2343
  6. Donovan, G.H., Longley, I., Gatziolis, Douwes, J. “Vegetation diversity protects against childhood asthma: results from a large New Zealand birth cohort.” Nature Plants, 4, no. 6, 2018, pg. 363. Available from:
    [accessed Sep 20 2018].
  7. Fuller RA, Irvine KN, Devine-Wright P, Warren PH, Gaston KJ. Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. Biology Letters. 2007;3(4):390-394. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2007.0149.
  8. Lee, A. C., Jordan, H. C., & Horsley, J. (2015). Value of urban green spaces in promoting healthy living and wellbeing: prospects for planning. Risk management and healthcare policy, 8, 131-7. doi:10.2147/RMHP.S61654




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