EXPERTS at York University have monetised the health benefits that a visit to the North York Moors National Park can bring.

New research carried out by university academics shows that for every £1 invested by the government into National Parks, they generate about £7.21 of health and well-being benefits for visitors and volunteers.

Until now, the return on investment for the government in terms of the health and well-being of people using National Parks has not been calculated.

This research therefore marks a crucial first step in understanding how National Parks can best measure the true impact they have on those they engage with.

Richard Gunton, director of park services, said: “It’s official; National Parks are good for your health.

“The report confirms that the activities we deliver not only have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the health and well-being of visitors and volunteers, but also a real value to the economy as well.

“The results will also help us advance our ongoing work and our commitment to improving the health and well-being of as many different groups as possible.”

Philip Linsley, Deputy Dean and Professor of accounting and risk at the University of York, co-authored the report along with Robert McMurray, Professor of work and organisation.

Prof Linsley said: “This initial analysis only looked at the health and well-being outcomes for volunteers and visitors to the National Park, and only activities funded through the National Park Grant from Defra. “As a result, other groups who may experience benefits, such as school children, and activities funded through grant schemes fell outside the scope of this report.

“This means that the value of £7.21 is likely to be an under-estimate.

“It’s also important that we don’t get too hung up on the numbers.

“While the final figure is important, it can never truly convey what a National Park means to individuals, communities and indeed the nation. “It’s therefore important that the result is considered carefully alongside the stories of what it means to be a visitor or a volunteer in a National Park.”

Jim Bailey, Chairman of the North York Moors National Park Authority described the research results as “fantastic”.

He added: “This figure demonstrates the value of what we are contributing towards people’s health and wellbeing, as well as encouraging visitors from all backgrounds to create thriving natural environments.

“I think in our hearts we know that visiting or volunteering in a National Park feels good, and this piece of great work condenses that into a figure we can build upon.”

“As always there are challenges that lie ahead, and we look forward to furthering our duties and goals as part of the government’s current review of National Parks.”