Several researchers studied the effects that green spaces in the city have on overall human health. In the process, they found that areas like playgrounds, parks, and animal sanctuaries can help improve and maintain mental and physical health. They can also reduce mortality and morbidity rates among urban residents and alleviate the effects of air and noise pollution, as well as heat
With these benefits in mind, it’s about time that you visit a green space near you.
Don’t know what to do when in these places? Here are the top three activities you can try on your own or with a friend:
1. Capture nature with your lenses
Whether you’re a nature lover or not, chances are that you’ll find comfort in parks and green spaces filled with bountiful trees and blooming flowers. During such moments, instinct would tell you to reach for your camera phone and take a picture of that wonderful scene.
After all, there’s no better way to bring home a lasting memory of stunning green spaces than to capture it on camera.
In the UAE, Umm Al Emarat Park is the best place to challenge your photography skills while enjoying nature. To discover what the place has to offer and make the most out of your visit, you should consider following these practical tips in capturing standout images of parks and other green spaces:
● Pick a subject
While all the greenery in the park is excellent for your health, it can pose a challenge for photography enthusiasts on a quest to capture the scene on camera. To deal with this dilemma, you can look for an object with a contrasting or non-green hue.
Pick something that stands out while you scan the premises. It can be a person with a dog, a fire tree with red leaves, or even a statue or an empty bench in the park.
While you have a good chance of identifying a subject, you might still find yourself lacking a photography subject. In this case, what you should do is find a shape that offers a feeling of vastness and capture it with an 18-24mm wide-angle lens. When doing so, maximize the wider side to create a beautiful picture.
● Try out different angles
Professional photographers create wonderful images by shooting the same subject from different angles. This way, you can find a vantage point that best presents the scene.
For example, you can try capturing an image of leaves while lying down underneath a tree. If the sun is still high, this will give you a contrast between the silhouette of the leaves and the clear blue sky.
You can also try lowering the camera down to ankle level to snap a different view of fallen leaves or grass that’s moist from the morning dew. This angle will also give you an option to make the entire park the background of the photograph. The key is to go against instinct and shoot vertical rather than horizontal.
● Time your visit right
Some professional photographers only shoot pictures from parks and other green spaces at dusk or dawn. When the sun is low, it helps trees cast interesting shadows, which make for gorgeous nature photographs.
The golden hue caused by the setting or rising sun that envelops a park will yield awe-inspiring pictures. This can even make those boring benches and statues look alive – figuratively, of course.
1. Work out for free
Green spaces like parks have also become a famous venue for exercising outdoors. However, there are more exercises that you can do beyond the usual jogging. Here are some activities you can try doing at a park near you:
Walking and running
Walking and running are two of the most common exercises done at parks. Aside from aiding in weight loss, these activities also help improve cardiovascular health. Running is also effective in clearing one’s mind, especially before making a major decision or when under stress.
Working out in an outdoor gym
Jogging is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “park” and “workout” used in the same sentence.
But working out isn’t necessarily limited to jogging. In fact, there is a growing number of green spaces and parks that allow free use of gym equipment installed in these spaces, unconfined by walls. Some of the typical gym equipment you might find in a park includes pull-up bars, static bikes, step-ups, and parallel bars.
Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates
Other wellness activities you can try in urban green spaces are tai chi, yoga, and Pilates. These exercises focus on flexibility, breathing, and strength while providing aid in maintaining holistic wellness.
Aside from enrolling in a class, you’ll also need to gather your supplies (e.g., comfortable clothes and a yoga mat), and set aside some time at least once a week for such activities.
1. Meet and greet wildlife
Another form of green space that is gradually becoming a popular destination for nature lovers are wildlife sanctuaries. Here, tourists get the chance to meet different species of animals in their natural habitat.
Take the Jebel Ali Wetland Sanctuary, for example. Situated in the United Arab Emirates, this 2,000-hectare wetland encompasses the Ghantoot Marine Reserve, home to 300 species of animals. This protected space also houses endangered animals like the hawksbill turtle and the mottled eagle ray.
It has plenty of mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and sandy beaches. It also houses a variety of other animals living in harmony, such as the Arabian gazelle, lizards, foxes, and a collection of water birds.
Although access to this sanctuary is limited, you can still meet and greet these wonderful creatures through activities conducted by the Emirates Marine Environmental Group. This includes turtle releases, mangrove planting, clean-ups, and even BBQ gatherings.
Do one for Mother Nature
Natural or man-made, green spaces in cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai offer a variety of ways to pass the time while boosting your overall health. To make your trip even more productive, help make these places last longer by keeping them garbage-free, and ditching plastics and other materials that contribute to the destruction of our planet Earth.
Rasha El Saleh is the Conservation Education and Outreach Coordinator in the education team of Emirates Nature-WWF working on its programme, Connect with Nature. She leads the outreach and youth empowerment aspect in growing the Connect with Nature community within the UAE and providing opportunities for youth to lead in this community, in addition to supporting partnerships with vendors supporting and promoting active aspects of the programme.