PARKS Victoria ranger team leader Mathew Sobey is calling on locals to get back to nature.
With diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, depression and anxiety among the fastest growing health conditions in Victoria, Mr Sobey said getting back to the great outdoors is the solution.
‘‘Increasing urbanisation and changing lifestyles mean more people are spending less time in nature, doing less physical activity, and becoming more stressed and socially isolated,’’ he said.
‘‘Yet simply spending time in nature can help us improve our health.’’
Mr Sobey said research indicated:
■Access to safe, high-quality parks results in increased physical activity and improved physical and mental health.
■For children, accessible and safe parks foster active play, which is associated with physical, cognitive and social benefits.
■For adolescents, parks improve mental and social health during what is often a tumultuous time of life.
■In urban areas, parks foster social connections that contribute to social wellbeing.
■Contact with nature through parks can enhance spiritual health (meaning in life), which underpins all other aspects of health.
Mr Sobey said the natural reserves surrounding Heathcote were hidden gems worth exploring.
‘‘For a real surprise, check out the Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve to see the colourful effects our mining history have had on the exposed mounds of soil,’’ Mr Sobey said.
‘‘Heathcote-Graytown National Park has something for everyone – great views, bushwalking, birdwatching, goldmining and wartime history, and more.
‘‘For sweeping views over the town and surrounding countryside, head up to Viewing Rock Lookout.’’
Drop in to the Heathcote Visitor Information Centre in the main street for maps and local ideas for enjoying the great outdoors, or go to parks.vic.gov.au for more information.