Harlem Word: Nancy Bruning tells us about how parks can be valuable for physical activity

Editor May 27th, 2010

Nancy Bruning, MPH, is a fitness instructor and public health researcher who runs a weekly outdoor fitness program in Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan. In this article, she talks about how parks are a great location to get exercise and the reasons why.

Q: What are the benefits of using New York City parks for exercise and physical activity?

A: First of all, exercise can be low-cost because parks are free. A lot of people avoid the gym, either because of the price or because they don't feel comfortable in that environment. But who is intimidated by or can't afford a walk in the park? Also, exercising in parks introduces people to their own community and what's in the park. A lot of people haven't really walked around parks in their neighborhood that much. They might take a short walk, but haven't seen the whole park. For example, in Fort Tryon Park most people just walk around the garden. People have been living in the neighborhood for 20 years and have never been to the Broadway end of the park or walked up any of the many sets of steps. As a result of getting to know the park better through structured exercise programs, hopefully people will start to care about the park and take part in the volunteer programs at Fort Tryon. I've seen that happen quite a bit with people who come to the fitness programs at Fort Tryon.

Second, there is actually a lot of research that shows how beneficial physical activity is for health, especially when done in a group, and also when done outside in nature. For example, people tend to be more likely to continue to be active if they're in a group, which we are in the fitness program. They also get extra health benefits by being in nature. For example, being outside in nature improves mood and self-esteem, may protect from strokes and heart disease, reduces stress, blood pressure, and mental fatigue, helps you heal faster from surgery, and improves feelings of neighborhood safety. The good feeling you get outdoors is called "biophilia," which stresses the bond between human beings and living systems. Sometimes what I do is called "green exercise," and research shows that being in nature is more beneficial than indoor exercise. British researchers have published their positive findings on "green exercise" and Dutch researchers have published intriguing results on what they call "vitamin g."

If you are interested in getting in touch with Nancy Bruning, feel to contact her through her GetHealthyHarlem.org username: nbruning (click the "Contact" tab on her profile page)! You can also email her at nbfitinthecity@aol.com or call at 419-962-6292.

Read more from Nancy Bruning by clicking the links below:

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