We already know spending time outdoor can significantly improve our health. But did you know that it also has long lasting beneficial effects on our mental health? Just like compound interest, the advantages build up from an early age. If we want our kids to grow up to become happier adults, it is paramount that we let them spend at least 30 minutes a day outside.
Reasons why you should spend more time outdoor
- Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps us fight against osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and heart attacks.
- You’ll get more exercise. We are naturally more active just by being outside. We’re less likely to be on our devices which distracts us from being active. Being active helps reduce stress, ward off depression, boost self esteem, improve sleep, strengthen our hearts, increase our energy levels, lower blood pressure, improve muscle tone and strength, strengthen our bones, reduce body fat, and make us healthier overall.
- You’ll be happier. Light naturally elevates our mood. English scientists have discovered that even just five minutes of exposure to green open spaces resulted in an increase in self esteem and boost in mood.
- Your concentration will improve. Studies have shown that children with ADHD who performed activities outdoors were able to focus better than children who performed the same activity indoors. It significantly reduced their symptoms and increased their focus.
- Your body may heal faster. In this study, spinal surgery patients were less stressed and used less pain medication during their recovery period when exposed to sunlight.
Research that backs up how green space has long term benefits for growing kids
Researchers from the Aarhus University in Denmark produced a paper on how children who grew up in natural environments had a lower risk of developing psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. They examined satellite data on almost one million Danish 10-year-olds born from 1985 to 2002. They found more time spent outdoor during childhood lowered their risk of many mental disorders. It promoted mental health, encouraged exercise, improved social coherence, built better cognition and brain development, and improved immune functions.
The researchers found that substance abuse disorders and intellectual disability risks were mostly associated with parents’ socioeconomic status. They didn’t see much change in that regardless of environment. They discovered that children who grew up with more green space were less likely to develop mood disorders, depressive disorders, neurotic disorders, and stress-related disorders.
Kristine Engemann, the lead author of the study, wants to replicate the study elsewhere. She plans on continuing her research by comparing the relationship between mental health and other types of environments. For example, she wants to explore whether being close to the ocean might have similar benefits as well. One thing is for sure, the benefits of being outdoors is not just short term. Not only will your kids appreciate it, they will grow up to be happier and more relaxed in the long term.
Ideas on how to include outdoor activities for your kids
- Organize an outdoor play date. It’s always more fun with more friends.
- Go for regular walks or bike rides. This activity is a great source of activity and helps the family bond together.
- Blow giant bubbles. There’s a great recipe for giant bubbles that involves guar gum here.
- Take them to a farm. Farms teach kids where food comes from. Additionally, if you take them to a pick your own farm, they’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of their own labor.
- Take them to the zoo. Kids love animals and they would love being able to see them in person.
- You can take them camping. Just be careful and take precautions to ensure a safe camping trip.
Put the effort into your kids and they will grow up to become happier, stable adults. With time, this benefits you in the long run because it decreases future conflict and instability.