Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

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!

Read More: Family Outdoor Activities
National Wildlife Federation: Be Out There Campaign

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Traci S. Williams-Nurse

Dr. Traci Williams-Nurse is a licensed psychologist who specialized in child, adolescent and family psychology. Her interests include child development, family functioning, video games and food. She was born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
This entry was posted in Mental Health, Nature, Parenting, Stress and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

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  2. Sheri says:

    I agree! I used to have a weight problem all my life. Only a few weeks ago, I started to go hiking in our local preserve (I didn’t know we had one!). Hiking can get addictive. My body is starting to take shape! You meet so many people, you benefit from fresh air, exercise, enjoying the natural scenery. I have tried gyms but was not motivated to continue because there is no fresh air in there! I also have been taking care of my elderly grandparents who are invalid. Most of the time, I will take my grandma out to a park and push her around in her wheelchair and sit her under the tree shade while she looks at ducks. She loves it! I have noticed her health has improved from spending time in nature. She is sleeping and breathing better, able to move around more, and can do more things for herself – a big improvement! I think more doctors should prescribe “nature” therapy to their patients to help improve their health!

  3. So glad to hear your account! Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Pingback: Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts | Child Space

  5. Reblogged this on Life & Career Coaching with Marie Wetmore and commented:
    Wow! I just had to share this awesome article on the benefits of spending time outdoors… Great for kids. Great for adults. Got to love it.

  6. My preschooler has a teacher that takes the children to the park every chance they get. Some might criticize that it takes away from their learning time but I really feel that my son retains more information when he gets that break to go outdoors! Thanks for the post!

  7. Marie Trout says:

    I think we often overlook the obvious. We take drugs, buy expensive distractions and find ourselves (and our children) sicker and sadder. Thanks for this lovely post.

  8. This is wonderful. I will share this with my clients. Thank you.

  9. This is very, very great.
    When I’m writing, one of my primary inspirations is the forest behind my house when I was growing up, as well as many other natural areas. Nature is such an inspiring and humbling thing. Many people I know have such vivid wonderful childhood memories of what they used to do outside..few are ever like “And once, there was this amazing night when I was playing a video game and…”.. winning a video game is somehow not as rewarding as finding your way out of the woods, or finding a little stream where you didn’t know there was one.

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