Health & Happiness

Photo © Thomas Hawk

Not just for the birds

Did you know that naturally-landscaped yards make you and your neighbors happier? One scientific study suggests that landscaping your yard isn’t just for the birds 1. These researchers surveyed neighborhoods in several cities in Australia, and collected data on demographics, species diversity and richness, and vegetation cover. Taking into account demographics, the researchers found that personal well-being, as well as the well-being of the neighborhood, were positively related to the diversity of birds and density of plants. In Phoenix, Arizona a recent study found that people whose yards contained greater biodiversity (both in plant life and in animal life) reported greater neighborhood satisfaction 2. Biodiversity in yards also correlated with positive interactions with neighbors and housing value 3.

A study of urban-dwellers has shown that people have higher well-being and lower mental distress when they live in areas with greater amounts of green space compared with when they reside in areas with less green space. The effects of green space exposure were more significant than changes in crime rates or even household income! 4
"Model" Neighborhood

Photo © Zach Putnam

The positive effects of green space extend beyond your yard. Just having a park in your area also has a positive impact on your view of your neighborhood 5. The effect is so strong that just being able to see a green space from your hospital room improves the rate of your recovery 6.

Having green space in your neighborhood increases the resiliency of you and your neighbors, making it easier for you to weather changes in economic status, natural disasters, and other kinds of stress. This is especially true of children, who show a stronger ability to handle stress and concentrate when they are exposed to plants and nature 7. Furthermore, recent evidence tells us that just being involved in environmental volunteerism yields long-term positive health effects 8.

Updating the lawn

Photo © Naomi Pincher

yard . . . work?

Ever curious how many calories you burn while gardening?

Calories used per hour for a 180 pound man

  • Watering lawn or garden————122
  • Mowing lawn (riding)—————-202
  • Trimming shrubs (power)———–284
  • Raking————————————324
  • Planting seedlings——————- 324
  • Mowing (push with motor)———364
  • Planting trees—————————364
  • Trimming shrubs (manual)———364
  • Weeding———————————-364
  • Clearing land —————————–404
  • Digging, spading, tilling————-404
  • Laying sod——————————–404
  • Chopping wood————————–486
  • Gardening with heavy power tools—486
  • Mowing lawn (push mower)————-486
  • Shoveling snow——————————486
  • Double digging—————————688

The above information was found here compiled by Jeffrey Restuccio from the ACSM Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription Third Edition

People in grass houses

Spot of Color

Don't be afraid to stand out in a sea of lawn! Your neighbors might even be inspired to join you in your front yard revolution.

Photo © Annthelibrarian

Interestingly, researchers are finding that one of the biggest factors influencing people’s tendencies towards landscaping preferences are their neighbors’ opinions 9. If people feel their neighbors are accepting of the varied vegetation height that often characterizes more sustainable, wildlife-friendly yards, then they are more likely to change their yards. What can you do? Share your opinion! Make sure your neighbors know you wouldn’t mind if they let part of their lawn go wild; share your own efforts with the Habitat Network.