Boston may be a metropolitan hub, but if you love to spend time in the great outdoors, there are plenty of local trails and green spaces where you can find your fix. Whether you prefer to pedal, row, or enjoy a leisurely stroll, you’ll reap the benefits of sunshine, fresh air, and improving your cardiovascular fitness. Here are a few of our favorite local places and ways to get outdoors and maintain your healthy lifestyle.
Row Down the Charles River
In the 60s, The Standells sang that they “loved that dirty water” of the Charles River. Nowadays, the river’s been cleaned up and the water has been known to sparkle on sunny days. Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of the winding waters and rent a kayak to paddle down the length of the river. Paddle Boston offers kayak rentals, guided sunset tours of the Charles, paddling classes, and more. If you’re feeling daring, why not sign up for one of their Wednesday night races?
Kayaking is a fun way to build upper body and core strength. Maneuvering the paddle over and over makes for a strong back, chest, shoulders, and arms. This is not to mention better coordination and flexibility. It’s a low-impact exercise, so that means less stress on your joints. You’ll also be able to take in the iconic features of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, from the dome of MIT to the gold leaf that tops the State House.
Avid kayakers report that it’s also a good way to reduce stress as you watch the blue-green waters undulate around you under a wide blue sky. And if you join a kayaking club, it’s a way to make new friends as you paddle the waters together.
Get Outdoors and Hike in the Blue Hills
The Blue Hills Reservation is in Milton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. It offers trails for experienced and inexperienced hikers alike, so no matter who you are or what fitness level you’re at, you’ll find a trail here that suits you. No matter what trail you set on, you’re sure to find one that offers rewarding sights of the reservation’s marshlands, meadows, and rolling hills. You might find a stunning view of the city in the distance, or enjoy New England’s famous foliage on a wooded path.
Hiking can be as challenging or as easy as you want it to be, depending on the trail you choose and the pace you set. If you can walk, you can hike. Be sure to bring snacks, water, and wear comfortable sneakers or boots with good traction. Put one foot in front of the other and take the time to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of nature around you.
Hiking offers a slew of physical and mental benefits. It’s a weight-bearing exercise, so it builds strong bones and strong legs. It builds cardiovascular fitness, so it’ll lower your risks of heart disease and high blood pressure. Beyond that, the relative solitude of hiking offers a meditative experience. It gives your mind a break from the stressors of everyday life. Research shows that regular hiking can alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Reconnecting with nature works your body and rests your brain. This is a great reason to get outdoors.
Ride Down the Minuteman Bikeway
If wheels are more your style, it’s time to take yourself on a spin down the Minuteman Bikeway in North Cambridge. This rail trail starts just past Alewife Station on the Red Line. It travels 10 miles on an out-and-back path through Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. It’s paved all the way and popular with runners, walkers, roller skaters, and cyclists alike. Along the way, you’ll pass Spy Pond, Arlington’s Great Meadows, and the Battle Green where the Battle of Lexington and Concord sparked the American Revolution. Keep an eye out and you might reward yourself with sightings of a hawk or songbird in the wooded sections.
What can cycling do for you? For starters, it’ll build stronger legs and lungs and improve your flexibility. Research suggests cycling can alleviate symptoms of knee pain and osteoarthritis, and balancing on two wheels means better coordination as well. When you take your bike out regularly, you’ll enjoy all the mental benefits of cycling as exercise, including higher-quality sleep, reduced stress, and a healthier brain.
These aren’t the only ways to enjoy the great outdoors around Boston. However, they’re a start. All three will lead you on the path towards becoming your best self, physically and mentally. Get outdoors and make the most of what the Boston area has to offer.
According to the United Nations World Cities Report, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban environments by the year 2030. That means 1 in 3 people will reside in cities with a population of at least half a million. As a result, architects, scientists, and organizations are working together. They are studying the dynamics of the human-nature connection. In addition, how this connection can be incorporated into the concrete jungle. The answer to this challenge is biophilic design.
As defined by the International Living Future Institute:
“Biophilic design is the practice of connecting people and nature within our built environments and communities.”
An analysis of the data collected by the Labor Department revealed that the average U.S. employee works 1,811.16 hours every year. An estimated 40 percent work more than 50 hours a week, while 20 percent work more than 60 hours per week. This means that employees spend a lot of time in the office. Maybe even more than they do so at home. As a result, companies are increasingly focusing on providing an office design that creates a holistic, productive and collaborative atmosphere for their employees.
In 2014, the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) Human Spaces Report analyzed the impact of biophilic design across eight countries. Recently, the second wave of data was collected on workers in 16 countries. Statistics on workers in office environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, reveal the following:
- 85 percent of the workers surveyed were employed in an urban environment.
- Workers who functioned in airy, well-lit and green spaces, reported 15 percent higher levels of well being as well as lower levels of stress than their counterparts.
- Offices that incorporated biophilic elements increased their productivity by 6 percent.
- Employees’ ability to think, innovate and perform creatively increased by 15 percent.
Some of the first organizations to jump on board the biophilic design philosophy are big weights such as Apple and Amazon. In doing so, they have helped make the movement mainstream through high profile successful projects.
Amazon’s new office in downtown Seattle features three glass and steel domes occupying a forest area of 40,000 plants. Known as the ‘Spheres’, the glass orbs have been an instant hit with employees. From the 4,000 square foot living wall to the 55 foot high treetops, Amazon has created its own unique urban workplace ecosystem.
As part of its outdoor districts in its Redmond campus, Microsoft has built three treehouses to empower its employees to work and interact in new ways. Created by renowned builder Pete Nelson, the treehouses feature unique details. This includes weatherproof benches, rustproof rocking chairs, charred wood walls, and skylights.
Compared to a UFO, Apple Park has aptly been nicknamed the ‘Spaceship’. One of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, this architectural wonder in Cupertino, California is fitted with solar panels and has its own on-site low carbon central plant. The landscaping includes more than 7,000 trees including indigenous plants of the Mojave Desert and apricot orchards.
While the majority cannot afford grand projects, there are some simple principles which can be easily incorporated into any workplace.
- Increase accessibility to natural light and views of the outside to boost employee productivity.
- Use outdoor spaces like roofs and balconies to create creative working spaces for employees.
- Experiment with bright, vibrant colors like orange and blue.
- Utilize natural textures like wood and stone that imitate the outdoors.
- Bring in plants to increase oxygen levels, which in turn brings down mental fatigue.
- Avoid congested, cramped spaces, and keep the office design open and airy.
In conclusion, biophilic design marks a revolution in office architecture. With scientific backing, it proves that architecture makes a difference in workplace health, employee productivity, project teamwork, and stress management. In the words of Amanda Sturgeon, biophilic design expert, and CEO of International Living Future Institute:
“What could we learn from what makes us love being outside and incorporate it into the design of our buildings?”
When you think of landscape design in corporate settings, you may consider it a one and done type of procedure. In the past, this might have involved using fake plants to fill the voids of blank walls or drab surroundings.
It’s time to take landscape design more seriously as a viable way to not only improve the aesthetic value of your office space, but also the air quality.
Take a look at some recent corporate landscape design trends to show you what’s possible at numerous levels.
The Advent of More Experiential Design
One major trend in this design field is creating more experiential environments, both outdoors and indoors.
You’re seeing a more concerted effort to make corporate settings more enjoyable as a place to not only work, but have more pleasant employee experiences. This includes adding more walking and bicycling paths, or gardens to provide places for solace.
With the corporate world often being hectic, this experiential trend is one to keep in mind to create less stress. It’s a chance for your employees to meditate so they brainstorm for more innovative ideas.
More Sustainability in Landscaping
Many corporations bring sustainable practices in numerous ways now. In landscaping, it’s becoming a major trend, especially in eco-friendly water management.
How you take care of your plants indoors and outdoors is going to play a big part in how you water them. You’re seeing more corporations use plants that don’t require as much water for conservation, including eliminating excessive maintenance.
Succulents are a popular plant variety needing hardly any water, including cacti. If you travel often, these are beautiful plants unable to die on you if you forget to water every week. However, they do need more sun, so you’ll need to keep them by a well-lit window.
The Trend in Using More Colorful Plants
Greenery is still in, but so are more colorful plants for use in office settings. Companies have begun to add uniquely colored plants with purple, pink, or even patterns.
Pink Princess Philodendron is one good example, as is Tri-Color Oyster Plant for a purple tinge. You’re even seeing dwarf fruit trees being used in corporate settings. This is truly a unique trend, even if it does require a little extra maintenance.
The color from growing a small lemon tree in an office suite can add huge visual interest when meeting with guests.
Rather than use standard cubicle walls, some companies are starting to use green dividers as a unique way to bring plants into the workplace.
These green walls work better for noise reduction, including bringing far more privacy. At the same time, using the right type of plant, you can use these to help purify the air from chemicals and other pollutants.
It’s common to see these as stand-alone pieces or working as full dividers.
Plants Cleaning the Air
As part of your more green initiative in your company, you’ll want to think about how plants can purify the air around you. This works outdoors as well as indoors.
Not all plants are good at this, though others are better known for absorbing chemicals like benzene or formaldehyde. These pollutants are often hidden in carpets or furniture, bringing potential illness if you inhale them every day for long hours.
Ficus benjamina, or even Aloa are two of the best air-purifying plants out there. Some of these plants are large enough to fill in spaces to make your office more presentable. Even if you have a lot of office furniture, plants add a visual interest and down-to-earth feel to remove any sterile corporate appearance.
Visit us at Cityscapes Inc. so we can help you achieve these corporate landscape trends to create a new and refreshing aesthetic.