Health Matters Spring 2022 | Page 6

Outdoor activities benefit kids

Modern amenities and indoor comforts have made life easier in many ways , but they ’ ve also helped to fashion a generation of people who spend much of their time inside . A 2018 report from the international research firm YouGov found that around 90 percent of study respondents from North America and Europe spend close to 22 hours inside every day . Children may get a little more time outdoors than adults , particularly if they participate in outdoor sports .
There are distinct advantages to engaging in more outdoor activities . Here ’ s a look at some of them .
• Improved mood and reduced risk of depression : The YouGov report notes that around 15 percent of the world ’ s population is affected by different levels of seasonal
affective disorder , which is believed to be a direct result of lack of daylight . Symptoms go away when days are longer and individuals can enjoy more sunshine . Children who go outside and get ample exposure to sunlight may experience a more positive mood and renewed energy .
• Lower risk of obesity : Dr . Kenneth Ginsburg from the American Academy of Pediatrics says outdoor play can help reduce obesity in today ’ s youth . Children can enjoy self-directed physical activity that also stimulates awareness of one ’ s surroundings .
• Improved vitamin D levels : Vitamin D has been dubbed the “ sunshine vitamin ” because sunlight hitting the skin prompts the liver and kidneys to create vitamin D in the body . A deficiency
in vitamin D can lead to depression and heart failure and may compromise the immune system . Children can improve current and future health by maintaining adequate vitamin D levels through healthy exposure to sunlight .
• Lower stress levels : Students of all ages are faced with stressful situations that come at them from every angle . The arrival of the global pandemic has been an added stressor that continues to affect children and adults . According to research by the University of Essex , outdoor exercise offers mental health benefits that exceed those gleaned from indoor exercise . Spending time in a green space can result in improved mood and self-esteem . A 2017 study of Japanese students found those who spent time in the forest
for two nights returned home with lower levels of cortisol , a hormone used as a marker of stress , than students who remained in the city . The practice of destressing outdoors is often referred to as “ forest bathing ” or “ nature therapy .”
• Better focus : A dose of nature may help children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder improve their concentration levels . A 2008 study from researchers at the University of Illinois found that children with ADHD demonstrated greater attention performance following a 20- minute walk in a park as compared to a residential neighborhood or downtown area .
— Metro Creative Connection
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