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News Center Items by Cheryl Charles

Watching Birds Near Your Home Is Good For Your Mental Health

People living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress, according to research by academics at the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland. The study, which surveyed mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes and ethnicities, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or leafier suburban neighborhoods.

New UK Government Called Upon to Reinstate Urban Playgrounds

The Association of Play Industries (API) released a manifesto ahead of the UK general election calling upon the next government of the United Kingdom to provide ‘urgent and sustained funding’ for public playgrounds to reverse an ‘alarming decline’ in the past few years. Play Must Stay: A Manifesto for Children’s Health also outlines the API’s desire for the administration to conduct audits of community playgrounds, as well as secure the long-term sustainability of public playgrounds.

Study Finds Boys Who Are Less Physically Active Have Less Reading Ability

A study conducted in Finland concluded that being physically active could help make boys smarter. The study, which included 153 boys and girls, observed the amount of time the children spent sitting and being idle versus running around. The researchers found a positive correlation between free playtime for boys and their ability to excel in reading and math.

Outdoor Lessons and Pocket Parks Proposed in ‘New Deal for Nature’

A new report commissioned by the Green Party in the U.K. attempts to put nature at the heart of the general election debate. The report recommends such nature-based measures as an hour a day of outdoor learning for primary school children, tighter restrictions on paving over front gardens and turning 20% of Britain into national parks. The report also advocates for more green spaces in cities through the rewilding of hospital grounds and the creation of pocket parks to ensure no home is more than a half of a mile from a wild green space.

Screen-based Media Associated with Structural Differences in Brains of Young Children

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics indicates there are structural differences in the brains of preschool-age children related to screen-based media use. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center led the study, assessing screen time in terms of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. Researchers found that children who have more screen time have lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain that support language and other emergent literacy skills. The children with increased screen time also had lower scores on language and literacy measures.

Outdoor Recreation Offices Are Popping Up Everywhere

Over the past six years, a steady wave of states have created dedicated outdoor recreation offices or task forces focused on outdoor recreation in their state. A total of 16 states now have state recreation offices. Though each office functions slightly differently, they are typically committed to the physical and mental health benefits of recreating outside as well as acknowledging the economic power of the $887 billion outdoor industry and its dependence on healthy landscapes.

Bristol Scheme to Get Children to Play Outside Their Homes Recognized at Mirror’s Pride of Sport Awards

Playing Out, a movement that emphasizes outdoor access and safe playing areas for children in their own neighborhood, has bee awarded the Mirror Pride of Sport Awards. Playing Out was founded in the U.K. by parents who became increasingly frustrated at the lack of safe spaces for their children to play. The idea and movement have spread throughout the U.K. and beyond.

Study Shows Kids Get More Exercise at School Than at Home

In a study of the activity level of grade 5 students at 60 schools in Canada, researchers found that on days with heavy precipitation, the students’ daily step count dropped by about 10 percent of their usual daily steps. Drops in activity levels were also associated with increased cloud cover and lower “feels-like” air temperatures. The effect was almost doubled on non-school days and was more pronounced for girls than boys.

UK Planning Systems ‘Neglecting Rights of Children’

A new report finds that planning systems in the UK are failing to consider the rights and needs of children, leading to detrimental effects on their health, wellbeing, and future prospects, with children from social housing reportedly being banned from communal play areas by developers. The research released by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) reveals that the past 50 years have seen a ‘drastic reduction’ in the use of outdoor spaces by children – as national policy has increasingly focused on economics rather than people.

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