Health and Wellness Benefits of Trails and Recreational Paths
The proposed Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail will be a great asset to our community. As a greenway / linear park / multi-seasonal trail it will provide valuable health and wellness benefits to all ages and abilities. It has been shown that the cost of these types of trails are more than offset through the health benefits and reduced healthcare costs for residents. Good health is everyone's major source of wealth.
From a health and wellness perspective, the following have been documented as benefits of trails:
- Looking at data from 833 people and 11 different trials, researchers found that exercising outside melted away levels of tension, anger and depression. In addition, outdoor exercise promotes higher Vitamin D levels and simply allows us to connect with nature, making it more enjoyable and increasing the chance that we continue doing it.
- In a West Virginia study, 60 percent of trail users report they exercise more regularly since they began using trails, and 47 percent of trail users report getting their recommended physical activity through trail use alone.
- Trails in Missouri increase exercise particularly among people most at risk of inactivity.
- In the United Kingdom, analysis of 10 different studies found significant improvements in self-esteem and mood after participants exercised outside in urban parks, farmland, forests, waterside, and wilderness.
- Several communities,  and states, [13,  have measured the savings in health care costs due to residents’ exercise on trails, and compared these benefits to the costs of building the trails. Although it can be challenging to isolate physical activity associated only with trails, researchers have found the benefits from reduced health care costs far outweigh the cost of trail construction.
In conclusion, the health benefits of trails have been demonstrated. It has also shown that they support not only physical but also mental health and the social wellbeing of a community. Once provided, they will be used by local residents who will appreciate the positive impact on their physical and social lives.
The Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail
1. Rails to Trails Conservancy. “Health and Wellness Benefits”, https://www.railstotrails.org/resourcehandler.ashx?name=health-and-wellness-benefits-of-trails-and-greenways&id=3070&fileName=HealthandWellness.pdf
2. BBC News, May 1, 2010. “Green' exercise quickly 'boosts mental health.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8654350.stm
3. National Recreation and Park Association, Dec. 2016. “The Health Benefits of a Bicycle-Pedestrian Trail.” http://www.nrpa.org/parks-recreation-magazine/2016/december/the-health-benefits-of-a-bicycle-pedestrian-trail/
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 2014. “Parks, Trails and Health.” https://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/parks.htm
5. Glamour Magazine, Feb. 8, 2011. “Which Is Better For You: Exercising Indoors Or Outdoors?” https://www.glamour.com/story/exercising-outside-or-at-the-g
6. Active.com. “6 Reasons to Ditch the Gym and Exercise Outside.” https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/6-reasons-to-ditch-the-gym-and-exercise-outside
7. Abildso, C., S. Zizzi, S. Selin, and P. Gordon. 2012. “Assessing the cost effectiveness of a community rail-trail in achieving physical activity gains.” Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 30(2): 102-113.
8. Brownson, R., R. Housemann, D. Brown, J. Jackson-Thompson, A. King, B. Malone, and J. Sallis. 2000. “Promoting Physical Activity in Rural Communities: Walking Trail Access, Use, and Effects.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 18(3): 235-242.
9. Barton, J., and J. Pretty. 2010. “What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis.” Environmental Science and Technology 44(10): 3947-3955.
10. Deenihan, G. and B. Caulfield. 2014. “Estimating the Health Economic Benefits of Cycling.” Journal of Transport & Health 1(2): 141-149.
11. Wang, G., C.A. Macera, B. Scudder-Soucie, T. Schmid, M. Pratt, and D. Buchner. 2005. “A cost-benefit analysis of physical activity using bike/pedestrian trails.” Health Promotion Practice 6: 174-179
12. Grabow, M., M. Hahn, and M. Whited. 2010. “Valuing Bicycling’s Economic and Health Impacts in Wisconsin.” The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
13. 7 BBC Research & Consulting. 2014. “Community and Economic Benefits of Bicycling in Michigan.” Prepared for the Michigan Department of Transportation
14. National Conference of State Legislators, Nov. 2008. Encouraging Bicycling and Walking the State Legislative Role.” http://www.ncsl.org/documents/transportation/encouragingbicyclingwalking.pdf
15. Headwater Economics, Spring 2016, “Measuring Trails Benefits: Public Health”, https://headwaterseconomics.org/wp-content/uploads/trails-library-public-health-overview.pdf
-advocating for the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project.
Lynnfield Rail Trail