An important new paper has just been released that links children’s time in nature to their overall health. Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Children’s Health was published in the journal, Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care.
According to the forward, “Within just one generation, the definition of ‘play’ has changed dramatically among children in industrialized countries.” Before the 1980s, most children were encouraged to play outside, and much of that play was unsupervised. In January, 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that children ages 8- 18 spend an average of more than 7.5 hours per day using some sort of electronic screen.
These same children, the paper cites, may be the ﬁrst generation at risk for having shorter lifespans than their parents and a variety of chronic conditions in childhood, such as childhood obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, vitamin D deﬁciency, ADHD, and depression.
The good news? Outdoor activity in natural environments may directly benefit children’s health in such areas as: Building and maintaining healthy bones and muscles; reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease; reducing feelings of depression and anxiety; and promoting psychological well-being.
I wrote more about the paper for the Children & Nature Network. That group also puts out a lot of excellent research about the many benefits of nature for children.
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman