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 de-stressing 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.