Dr Amir Khan: Why a regular dose of your local canal can benefit you
GP and best-selling author Dr Amir Khan is an advocate for our canals and rivers. Here, he explains why our waterways are such a valuable part of the urban landscape, and how their regenerative power can provide mental and physical benefits.
Where you live – from your home to your street, the places you pass as you walk to work or to the shops – can profoundly affect your health and wellbeing.
From pollution levels to green spaces, water, sunlight, and noise, there are so many factors that make up our immediate environment and impact our lives every day.
There have been many studies that look into these factors and how they impact us, with results that confirm the benefits of living near nature and green spaces.
Most of us probably don't find that surprising, as we've all enjoyed the benefits of spending time in nature at one point or another, but then we also don't all have the luxury of living in the countryside or by the sea, or even having a garden.
Bringing nature to cities
For city dwellers, the opportunities for spending time in nature can be few, but there are lifelines and oases to be found in the busiest of urban environments.
Many of the UK's towns and cities are home to canals, and these are unique places the urbanite can go to enjoy being near water and nature. Following a canal can lead you through some amazing landscapes and natural scenery, showcasing wildlife and beauty spots, as well as historical points of interest.
Spending time in these spaces can improve your wellbeing, from mental to physical health gained from exercise, more sunlight, cleaner air, and the regenerative power that comes from being close to nature. This is what makes canals such a valuable part of the urban landscape.
What's more, studies have shown that bodies of water can be even more beneficial than green spaces when it comes to wellbeing, with lakes, rivers, and canals providing a restorative effect for the mind, and even a well-designed fountain bringing some extra positive energy.
Preserving and promoting nature
We can all help to preserve and promote the nature around us, whether that's along a canal or in your local park, helping to maintain their positive effects on our lives.
This can simply be through making use of them as often as you can, and keeping them free of litter, or joining a local volunteer group, helping out with projects to keep natural spaces in good condition and accessible to everyone.
Science of Scenic Beauty
Another way to help is with the Canal & River Trust's study into the scenic beauty of canals. They've teamed up with Warwick University to gather data and understand what makes our waterways appealing, and what features have the biggest impact on health and wellbeing.
The Science of Scenic Beauty study can help us to better understand the value of shared green and blue spaces and help us preserve these for everyone to enjoy.
You can take part in the Canal & River Trust's Rate this Scene study by uploading your own canal photo to their database, and by rating other images of canals and rivers from around the country.