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7 SCIENCE-BACKED REASONS TO GET YOUR KIDS OUTSIDE

About the Author

Lawrence Rosen, MD is an integrative pediatrician and co-author of "Treatment Alternatives for Children" and founder of one of the country’s first “green” pediatric practices, The Whole Child Center, in Oradell, NJ. He serves as Medical Advisor to the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center at HackensackUMC, and is a founding member and Past Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Integrative Medicine.

This piece was originally published in Mind Body Green

Most of us intuitively know that we feel better when we spend time outside.

But sadly, as our lives become more dependent on technology, we are increasingly disconnected from the Earth — and this disconnect could be harming our children more than we think.

Acknowledging the adverse effects on children’s well being, author Richard Louv coined the term “Nature-Deficit Disorder.” His research has led pediatricians like myself to prescribe time in nature as a way to combat the health ills associated with lack of free outdoor play.

Looking for encouragement to get your kids off the couch this summer? Here are seven research-based reasons to venture into the Great Outdoors:

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1. It encourages exercise. The closer kids are to green spaces, the more likely they are to run around outside: a recent Canadian study found that the physical activity of 11 to 13 year olds rose relative to the amount of tree-filled space in their neighborhoods. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re a city dweller — simply make time for play in a shaded public park.

2. It reduces anxiety. Children in Maryland and Colorado who played in green schoolyards reported less stress compared to their peers. They also showed an increased sense of competence, as well as ability to form supportive social groups.

3. It improves focus. One study of kids in Illinois found that even just a twenty-minute walk in the park led to a substantial attention boost.

As the researchers note: “‘Doses of nature’ might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool in the tool kit for managing ADHD symptoms.”

4. It makes kids smarter. Researchers found that Barcelona school children with more exposure to outdoor greenery performed better on cognitive testing. The effect was greatest when both home and school environments provided “green” time.

5. It builds a sense of community. Canadian adolescents living in greener environments reported a stronger sense of “place,” or belonging to a healthy community. This finding has important ramifications, as these emotions might also increase kids’ engagement and involvement in keeping their neighborhoods safe and healthy.

6. It helps them develop deeper connections with family. In a survey of 60 American families, participation in camping experiences was found to improve family relationships.

7. It raises their interest in the environment. Childhood exposure to natural settings is associated with a greater interest in environmental stewardship — and ultimately with pursuing professional careers and adult hobbies connected to nature and the environment.

7 Science-Backed Reasons To Get Your Kids Outside was originally published in Mind Body Green. Dr. Lawrence Rosen gave us permission to republish this piece. 

Additional Reading

TAKING THE NATURE PRESCRIPTION SERIOUSLY, BUT NOT TOO

THE HELSINKI ALERT: Prestigious International Group of Scientists and Health Experts Calls for Cities Rich in Nature

HEALTHY PARKS, HEALTHY PERSON: Applying the Golden Rule to Nature and People

“SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING” — What We Can Do About Killer Couches, Sedentary Schools, and the Pandemic of Inactivity

TIME FOR YOUR VITAMIN “N”: Ten Great Ways Pediatricians and Other Health Professionals Can Promote Health and Wellness

GROW OUTSIDE! Richard Louv’s Keynote Address to the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference

C&NN Resources

Health Benefits to Children from Contact with the Outdoors and Nature

Youth report feelings of calm and peace associated with spending time in healthy outdoor environments

Green schoolyards, including naturalized areas and gardens, can provide a healthy retreat for children and youth from the stresses of everyday life

In the News

A Dose of Nature: The Secret Prescription to Health and Happiness?

“The Nature Cure: Why some doctors are writing prescriptions for time outdoors” —The Atlantic

Study Proves Farm Dirt Is Beneficial for Children’s Health

Scientists Have Discovered that Living Near Trees is Good for Your Health

1 Comment

  1. when growing up and older was always outside regardless of weather , sometimes voluntarily and other times through necessity but did enjoy a happy healthy life

    Reply

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