Meditation is a way of mindfully connecting the mind, body and spirit. I find stillness in playing the cello or ukulele, writing, and when alone in my quiet moments. Walking never spoke to me as a form of meditation until we took a trip to Costa Brava, on the northeast coast of Spain.
In my daily life, walking solely acts as a mediator of transportation. In Chicago, I do not always have the luxury of walking leisurely, but I appreciate that commuting enables me to move outside daily for a considerable amount of time.
As I walked along Costa Brava, I found myself observing myself and my surroundings more than driving my attention one way or the other. It was only after the excursion ended that I recognized how purifying walking Costa Brava was for me. This experience made me realize just how infrequently I find myself surrounded by more nature than the park and the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood. Though I am grateful for both, even my neighborhood park is exposed to an often traffic-congested street near my apartment.
Logistically, Costa Brava cannot be the only way for people obtain this sense of serenity. Even living in Barcelona, we had to travel an hour or so by bus to get there, and there is no way to access it using public transportation. Accessing Costa Brava itself is free, but if you are without a vehicle in Barcelona, that eliminates Costa Brava from your reach. The same goes for Chicago: To fully immerse yourself in nature, you would need to drive about an hour or more outside of the city. Some suburbs are accessible by Metra trains, but that requires money, and if those resources are not available to you then you are out for the count.
As a healthcare provider, it is important to consider the environments those you work with live in. Is their neighborhood safe? Are they able to access green spaces, and if so, how often? If they are physically inactive, what barriers do they encounter that prevent them? Though there are many perks of city life, there is limited access to the “reset” that nature provides. Having access to nature is instrumental to stress management, but accessibility to natural areas residing in urban areas is challenging. Considering that estimates of 70% of the global population will be moving towards urban cities [1,2], one of the greatest challenges of we will face in the twenty-first century will be resolving how to promote well-being in these environments. This article  assessed the relationship of how urban planning (land use, public transportation, street connectivity, walkability), green spaces (parks, accessibility to green spaces), and private recreational facilities influence physical activity cross-culturally. The information provided by this study hopes to help drive public policy and health disciplines to best support populations as we collectively towards more urban environments.