August 17, 2015

332 Children & Nature [17 August 2015]

We’re getting real summer weather this week, with highs around 30C – perfect for spending time at the lake. Many Canadians enjoy spending part of their summer holidays at the lake, either in the family cabin or camping. We find it relaxing to get away from the “rat race” and “back to nature”, and return to work or school feeling refreshed and invigorated.

What scientific evidence backs our belief that nature improves our mental and emotional health? Here are what some studies have found about the benefits of nature for both children and adults:

• The physical activity of 11-13 year old Canadian children increased with the amount of tree-filled space in their neighborhoods.
• Children in Maryland and Colorado who played in green schoolyards reported less stress and showed increased feeling of competence than those whose schools had no grass or trees.
A study in Illinois found a 20 minute walk in the park boosted the focus and attention of 17 children diagnosed with ADHD.
• Greater amount of greenness at home and especially at school increased cognitive improvements in schoolchildren in Barcelona, Spain.
• Children in nature-based playgrounds engage in more creative play and use their imaginations more to create their own games.
• Camping together improved family relationships for 86% of respondents in a survey of 60 American families.
Childhood experience with wild nature is positively associated with their appreciation of nature as adults.
• Japanese “forest bathing” (basking in a natural treed environment) lowers blood pressure and reduces stress hormones.
• A 2009 study from the Netherlands found that green space in people’s living environment significantly reduced anxiety disorder and depression.
• A 2012 study found walking in nature improved mood and short-term memory in 20 adults with major depression.

With the increasing time children (and adults) spend on their phones and playing video games (one estimate was that children play outside less than half the time their parents did), it would seem to be even more important for parents and teachers to provide opportunities for them to spend time in nature.

Sources for further reading:
Centre for Confidence and Well-Being
The Center for Parenting Education: Nature and children - a natural fit
MindBodyGreen 5 Really Good Reasons Why Kids Ned Time in Nature
MBG 10 Great Reasons to Get Outside More Often
MBG 7 Science Backed Reasons to get Your Kids Outside
MBG Why You Need to Try Japanese Forest Bathing
J. Mercola Green Spaces Make Kids Smarter

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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