Explore Colorado nature as a pathway to health

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While the colder winter months and a global pandemic have increased the amount of time Coloradans are spending at home and caused a heightened state of anxiety for so many, reaping the health benefits of being outside is more important than ever.

It has been proven time and again that there is a positive connection between being outdoors in nature and improved physical and psychological well-being.

According to a July 2020 article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any exposure to green space — even in a limited setting like an urban residential city street — is just as beneficial for health as visiting a natural setting or large public park. This is further supported by research that shows that spending even 20 minutes in a park can make people happier, reduce stress and boost social connections. So, regardless of the outdoor venue, anytime spent outside — whether exercising or not — can provide some benefit to emotional, physical and mental health.

Perhaps one silver lining from the COVID-19 era is that more Denver residents will continue to take advantage of the outdoors, given the limitations put on so many other activities and the increased stress the pandemic has caused. People need an outlet, and what better or easier way to accomplish this than to spend time outdoors. It not only brings vast health benefits, but it also supports a connection to others and to nature. These benefits and the connections we make are particularly important as we meet the challenges of our new normal in a post-pandemic world.

Denver residents can take advantage of the sunny days and the many welcoming, diverse outdoor spaces in our community to get a mental and physical health boost from being outdoors. Denver and the surrounding areas have a plethora of public parks, walking trails, green spaces and mountain parks to enjoy. Visit your local park or explore outdoor spaces beyond your community to get outside for a walk, play catch, ride your bike, visit a playground or spend time with family or friends.

Even if you just go outside your door to look at the trees, walk around the block or take time to sit on a bench, remember that being outside might just put a smile on your face.

Happy Haynes is the executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation. To find a nearby neighborhood park, visit https://tinyurl.com/yxw68xxf. This shortened link takes you to the interactive Find A Park feature on Denver Parks and Recreation’s website.

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