We’ve all either experienced a health issue personally or have had a friend or relative that has faced a health-related crisis, so we can undoubtedly agree health is wealth. That’s why it’s so important to recognize how trees and green places can enhance our health.

Investing from the ground up in our trees, parks and green spaces is one of the most cost-effective, easy, painless, and side-effect-free ways to get and stay healthy.

15116873_sResearch has shown that nature heals: Trees help by reducing stress, boosting immunity, and decreasing healing time. Trees’ stress-reducing abilities are especially powerful, since stress is a key contributing factor for many diseases including depression, heart disease, and cancer.

Matthew Silverstone in his book, “Blinded by Science,” proves scientifically that trees improve many other health issues such as: mental illnesses, ADHD, and headaches. He also notes that trees can enhance concentration levels and reaction times, which makes them the perfect, natural performance-enhancing aids. Other studies have shown that green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses and without the troubling costs of side-effects common to many behavioral drugs. In fact, physicians are even starting to write “park prescriptions” for their patients.

Ready to harness the health power of trees in your own life? Here are 5 great benefits you can expect:

1)  You’ll get more exercise. By getting in better shape, you’ll avoid the health care costs associated with obesity that cost Americans over $100 billion a year in total. Areas with trees are more appealing for physical activity, so find a green area and grab your bike, your running shoes, or even just your dog and a leash!

2)  You’ll be happier. Natural light tends to elevate people’s moods. Plus, physical activity has been shown to help people relax and cheer up. So, soak up the sun while taking a stroll—you’ll be both healthier and happier.

3)  Your concentration will improve. A recent study found that a 50-minute walk in nature can improve memory and focus by about 20 percent. And, two surveys of parents of children with ADHD have shown that performing activities in green settings can reduce those symptoms. Greenery is good for the mind at any age!

4)  You may heal faster. One study showed that having a hospital recovery room with a view out the window of trees, as opposed to just a brick wall, reduced patients’ recovery times. We hope that you’ll never need to reap this benefit, but it’s a good one to know just in case!

5)  You’ll breathe easy. Trees and other plants are regularly turning carbon dioxide into rich, oxygenated air we can breathe, which helps kill bacteria and viruses, improves breathing, and may even help prevent cancer. Plus, trees remove or trap lung-damaging particles, like dust, pollen, smoke and greenhouse gases, from the air, saving Americans about $50 billion annually in health care costs.

Spending more time in the green areas within our communities can help us stay healthier and prevent the costly and harmful effects of sickness and disease. If we want to manage our society’s health care costs and reduce rates of chronic illnesses, then we can’t afford to neglect the value our green spaces have to offer. By investing in their well-being, we invest in the health and wellness of the people who inhabit them.