The Real Benefits of River Parkways

It’s no surprise but always gratifying when a major study confirms something we’ve suspected – that living near an urban river parkway improves health. A new review of the research by Dr. Richard Jackson and coauthors concludes that river parkways in cities can improve physical, mental, and community health.

Just reading about the negative health effects of inactivity caused me to get up out of my chair for some much needed stretching. It was hard to stay seated as I read the rest of the report, given the dire health consequences outlined.

The cost of inactivity? $622 per person annually in medical costs.

The construction and maintenance cost per user of a riverfront trail? $235 annually

Another study concluded that “every $1 invested in trails for physical activity led to $2.94 in direct medical benefit.”

And so-called “green exercise,” or simply exercising outdoors, appears to confer additional mental health benefits. Being near water was found to be even more beneficial.

Don’t we all need a little mental health pick-me-up after a long, stressful day at work? I guess I need to swap an hour of reading for an hour of hiking from now on!

There’s too much in this study to summarize all of it in this blog – I highly recommend you set aside an hour to absorb its findings (perhaps while walking on a treadmill). The study provides more support for completing an LA River Greenway and adding trails – walking, biking, equestrian – wherever it makes sense to give people alternate, active means to get to work and encourage movement.

To end this post, here is a photo of the Eisbach, a small man-made river in Munich, Germany. All throughout the day, people line up for a chance to ride this standing wave. Wouldn’t you like to have something like this here in LA?

Eisbach wave on Stadtmulbach, Munich, Germany

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