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Study: Nature Walks Help Kids Concentrate

Parents of children with attention deficit problems are always looking for new strategies to help their children cope. An interesting new study suggests that spending time in nature may help.

A small study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at how the environment influenced a child’s concentration skills. The researchers evaluated 17 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, who all took part in three 20-minute walks in a park, a residential neighborhood and a downtown area.

After each walk, the children were given a standard test called Digit Span Backwards, in which a series of numbers are said aloud and the child recites them backwards. The test is a useful measure of attention and concentration because practice doesn’t improve the score. The order of the walks varied for all the children, and the tester wasn’t aware of which walk the child had just taken.

The study, published online in the August The Journal of Attention Disorders, found that children were able to focus better after the “green” walks compared to walks in other settings.

Although the study is small, the data support several earlier studies suggesting that natural settings influence psychological health. In 2004, a survey of parents of 450 children found that “green” outdoor activities reduced A.D.H.D. symptoms more than activities in other settings.

“What this particular study tells us is that the physical environment matters,” said Frances E. Kuo, director of the university’s Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. “We don’t…
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