Studies show outdoor play boosts children's physical and mental health

Published on Thursday, 2 February 2017 14:41 - Written by PATRICE DUNAGIN, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Research shows the need for children to experience natural environments often and in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, children are spending more time inside the house watching television and playing video games. Daily experiences in natural environments can have immediate and long-lasting benefits for children. Increased physical activity is associated with decreases in depression and anxiety and increases in levels of concentration. It is also a key strategy in addressing childhood obesity.

Children who play outdoors regularly:

- Become fitter and leaner.

- Develop stronger immune systems.

- Have more active imaginations.

- Have lower stress levels.

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- Play more creatively.

- Have greater respect for themselves and others.

Spending time in nature has many benefits and has been widely documented in recent years. Research shows that nature benefits children (and adults) in:

- Enhancing cognitive growth (thinking skills).

- Developing greater ability to handle negative stress.

- Increasing creativity.

- Developing more resistance to depression.

- Decreasing symptoms of ADHD.

Children who present symptoms of ADHD can benefit from time in nature. Researchers have found that being close to nature or in nature has the following benefits for children with ADHD:

- Helps to boost children’s attention spans.

- Fosters creative play and relieves symptoms of attention deficit disorders.

Children who are un-medicated but diagnosed with ADHD are more able to pay attention after a simple 20-minute walk in a park than they are after a walk through well-kept downtown or residential areas.

Greenery in a child’s environment, even through windows, has significant impact on the reduction of symptoms associated with ADHD. Researchers also concluded that while any outdoor space or activity seemed to help reduce the symptoms, environments with trees and grass were the most beneficial in the reduction of symptoms.

Kids of all ages - 1 to 101 - can benefit from time in nature.

For more information, contact Patrice Dunagin, Smith County FCS agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, at 903-590-2980.