Vail Daily column: The health benefits of our valley | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: The health benefits of our valley

Jim Daus
Trust Our Land
Jim Daus
Picasa |

Welcome, fall! The changing of seasons to fall is a great time to relax from our summer pursuits, mentally prepare for the coming winter and reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going.

The changing leaves rustle hoarsely in the wind, dazzle our eyes, drop onto our favorite trails and create nutrients for the fish on our secret stretches of river. These places provided us nourishment through the summer and remind us of how lucky we are to call the mountains home. We have the luxury of quick access to land that provides relaxed time in relative quiet, where one can hear only birds, crickets and wind in the trees. In the Eagle Valley, we are blessed with natural spaces devoid of noise, power lines and other human-made structures.

This access to nature is not just a blessing for our spirit but research also overwhelmingly supports the medical benefits of getting out into nature. Accessible natural places are a critical part of our healthcare infrastructure. Simply gazing at or immersing yourself within quiet, natural spaces greatly reduces stress and provides benefits to our physical and mental health.

Numerous studies have found that time spent in nature, whether exercising or sitting quietly, reduces blood pressure and the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Elevated levels of these hormones can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart failure and immune problems. For more information on this topic, search the Web for “nature walk reduces stress.”

GOOD FOR KIDS

The health benefits for children getting outside are well-documented. Unfortunately, kids are increasingly spending less time outdoors. According to the National Wildlife Federation, children are now spending less than seven minutes a day outside in unstructured play. Research shows that kids who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 60 minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. To learn more about how playing in nature benefits children, search the Web for “kids and nature.”

ABOUT THE LAND TRUST

In collaboration with other partners such as Eagle County, Eagle Valley Land Trust strives to protect the places where nature is easily accessible. For us, getting out in nature is extraordinarily easy, not just because our communities are surrounded by public lands but because we have worked to conserve many of the more accessible natural places in our valleys such as the East Vail Waterfall, West Avon Preserve and the Eagle River Preserve.

Eagle Valley Land Trust is the only organization in Eagle County solely dedicated permanently conserving land for the benefit and enjoyment of our residents and guests. As our community grows, so too does our need to conserve more land. This summer, Eagle Valley Land Trust has been working to further its relationships with private property owners to encourage them to consider permanently conserving their properties for the benefit of our community.

Partner organizations seeking to bring their patients, hold volunteer service projects and conduct outdoor education classes outside are having a hard time doing so in part because of permit limits on federal lands. As a result of Eagle Valley Land Trust’s relationships with landowners, we are in a unique position to help these partners. For example, by collaborating with Eagle Valley Land Trust, Walking Mountains, SOS Outreach, Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center and other community organizations could increasing their capacity to deliver programs that connect people of all ages to nature and address the mental and physical well-being of our community. At the same time, Eagle Valley Land Trust will be able to raise awareness of its role in preserving forever the many places we have to easily connect with nature.

CONNECTION TO THE OUTDOORS

We are lucky because relatively few Americans have nature so readily accessible out their back doors. We can enjoy it by taking a short walk from home. According to one study, the most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11. Eagle Valley Land Trust makes a difference by increasing the quality and quantity of such opportunities for kids of all ages to engage in such activities.

Because of the work of Eagle Valley Land Trust to conserve land near our homes and because of our many partners providing programs to connect children to nature, our community is well-situated to provide a healthy connection to nature for us all in the decades to come.

Jim Daus is the executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He can be reached at jdaus@evlt.org. For more information about the work of your local land trust, visit http://www.evlt.org.