A new research indicates that exposure to parks, trees and other green spaces can slow the rates at which our cells age.
According to The Guardian, the study found that people who lived in neighborhoods with more green space had longer telomeres, which are associated with longer lives and slower aging.
Telomeres are structures that sit on the ends of each cell’s 46 chromosomes, like the plastic caps on shoelaces, and keep DNA from unraveling.
The longer a cell’s telomeres, the more times it can replicate. When telomeres become so short that cells can’t divide, the cells die.
The team looked at the medical records (that included measures of telomere lengths) of more than 7,800 people who participated in a national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted between 1999 and 2002.
The researchers connected that information with census data to estimate the amount of green space in each person’s neighborhood. They found that a 5% increase in a neighborhood’s green space was associated with a 1% reduction in the aging of cells.
“The more green the area, the slower the cell aging,” said Aaron Hipp, a professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at North Carolina State and a co-author of the study.
“Research is now showing that where we live, what we are exposed to, how much we exercise, what we eat, each of these can impact the speed of telomeres degrading and again our aging process,” he added.
Many studies have shown that people living in greener neighborhoods have several health benefits, including lower levels of stress and cardiovascular disease.
Green space promotes physical activity and community interaction, which are both associated with better health outcomes. Neighborhoods with plenty of trees and greenery are also often cooler, more resistant to flooding and have lower rates of air pollution.