Green Light Trust: Trees are part of the ‘NHS’

Frithy Wood, Lawshall
Frithy Wood, Lawshall

Hardly a day seems to go by without some aspect of the health service featuring in the media.

Whether it’s newspaper headlines or documentaries on the television focusing on the daily life of our hospitals or popular series such as Call the Midwife, health care is a hugely important issue that needs and rightly gets a lot of attention.

At Green Light Trust, using the environment to improve and enrich peoples’ health and well being is an increasingly important part of our work. There is more and more research to show that the natural environment helps to achieve good health. This happens in many ways; exercise is the most obvious and woodlands are great places to get fit and stay fit. In addition to giving muscles a work out and getting pulses going, researchers at Glasgow University found that walking in parks and running in woodlands can have a positive effect on people suffering from depression and anxiety. The same research showed that the effect on improvements to people’s mental health was 50 per cent more than they might expect from going to the gym.

Another area where trees can play a part is with patient recovery following surgery. Researchers at Keele University report that there is good evidence that being able to see trees rather than a wall while in hospital helps speed recovery after surgery. They suggest that trees could also lower the need for painkillers, make people less negative about their situation and even reduce post-surgical complications.

Green space can also help to reduce health inequalities. Research has shown that there is a 25 per cent reduction in deaths in areas which have high levels of green space – and a one third reduction in deaths due to circulatory disease. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends the use of green space as one way of improving health.

A key part of Green Light Trust’s work is to enhance the health and well-being of people and help them cope better with life’s challenges. Many people of all ages and with a wide range of health needs have benefited from Green Light Trust’s outdoor programmes, whether by working or relaxing. And many communities across the East of England have benefited new woodlands which provide places to relax and recuperate. These programmes are part of the prescription from what is increasingly known as The Natural Health Service.