The amount of time children spend outside has decreased in the last two decades. Some children are engaged in a lot of activities, others are spending their time with entertainment media and others have busy parents. Whatever the reason, lack of outdoor time may be doing more harm than we realize.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”– Anne Frank
Anne Frank, one of the most renowned Jewish victims of the Holocaust, could not be more accurate. Increasingly, researchers are demonstrating the benefits of nature and the health risks faced by those who lead sedentary lives. According to their findings, there’s a lot we can gain from greenery!
Children who spend limited time with nature are twice as likely to become obese and to experience decreased levels of creativity, concentration and social skills. The Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 8-18 year olds spend about 44 hours a week watching electronic screens. The Child & Nature Network finds that only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own in a typical week.
The list of benefits to spending time outdoors is extensive, for both children and adults. Spending time with nature can:
- increase fitness levels
- increase Vitamin D levels, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues
- improve distance vision and lower the chance of nearsightedness
- reduce ADHD symptoms
- improve academic test performance
- build critical thinking skills
- reduce stress levels within mere minutes
- safeguard against anxiety, anger and depression
- enhance social skills and interactions
- strengthen immune systems
- increase vitality
- increase feelings of happiness
- strengthen appreciation for nature
The greatest news coming out of these research findings is that 5-20 minutes of being outdoors was enough to bring on improvements in mood. This is particularly relevant for those who often can’t find time in their daily schedules to slow down.
There are many ways you and your family can get in some time with nature. Examples include a backyard picnic, sitting out on the front porch together, a walk through the neighborhood, bubble blowing in the yard, a game of football, a hike, kayaking and gardening. For families living in urban or at-risk neighborhoods, consider going to a nearby park or having a day at the beach. Local tourism or forestry organizations often have outdoor events open to the public. Also, all parents should find out how much playtime their child is allowed at school and how much of that is spent outside.
We have natural medicine at our disposal. A little time with nature can help us all. So get up, get outside and don’t forget the sun screen and water!