Bicycle NSW is a member of the Western Sydney Diabetes Alliance and last week at the Leader’s Alliance meeting we learnt how greening and canopy cover can prevent diabetes.

Western Sydney is a Type 2 Diabetes hotspot, and this disease affects 9.4% of the NSW population. Bike riding offers a way to increase physical activity at any age, preventing, managing and even reversing this disease.

In order to ride bikes for transport, recreation or sport, people need safe, appropriate infrastructure.  The same is true for walking.  

We learnt the importance of a tree canopy to providing these spaces and ensuring people use them from Professor Thomas Astell-Burt and Associate Professor Xiaoqi Feng. They explained the findings of their longitudinal study tracking the health of 46,000 people over 45 living in Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. 

Their paper Urban trees found to improve mental and general health draws their findings together.  Adults living in places with a tree canopy of 30% or more, had 31% lower chance of developing psychological distress, and 33 % lower odds of rating their general health as “fair” or “poor”. 

Rates of Type 2 Diabetes are lower in areas with higher tree canopy, but simply providing shrubs or open grass isn’t enough.  People need tree cover to help cool the environment and make it more comfortable to play, exercise and choose active travel.

“We’ve seen a lot of trees removed for construction projects and burnt in the recent fires, but this research highlights the importance of replanting trees that shade our parks, paths and roads,” said General Manager of Public Affairs, Bastien Wallace.

“Trees can literally be the difference between communities being active and healthy or inactive, with all of the health risks that brings,” said Bastien.

Some councils have tree planning programs you can get involved with, and when your feedback is sought on a park or cycleway, why not ask for shady trees?

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