New Studies Stress Importance of Outdoor Time for Health and Wellness


 

New research aims to stress once again just how important it is for children and adults alike to turn off the screens and step outside for active play on a regular basis.

Dr. John Reilly and his colleagues at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland recently released “The Active Healthy Kids Scotland Report Card 2016,” which suggests that children who play outdoors have a decreased risk for obesity and a better chances for academic success.

The study found that kids are still falling well under the recommended levels of physical activity and surpassing the maximum two hours per day suggested for screen time. “The amount of time children spend in front of screens has had an impact on their well-being for many years,” Reily said. “The popularity of computer games and the emergence of the internet, smartphones, and social media have contributed further to this problem.”

Instead, he emphasized the importance of outdoor activities, which should be encouraged year-round. “Play benefits children in helping them to develop socially and emotionally, so promoting active outdoor play would have many benefits in addition to improving physical activity, improving academic attainment, and reducing obesity,” he said.

But it’s not all just child’s play. Concurrent research from the University of Queensland, Australia, indicates that spending time in a natural outdoor setting for just 30 minutes every week could decrease rates of high blood pressure and depression for people of all ages.

“We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits,” said Dr. Richard Fuller of Queensland in a press release for the study. “We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits.”

Part of nature’s calming effect may stem from the fact that trees can absorb and block sound, lowering noise pollution by as much as 40%. Fuller and his colleagues estimate that just 30 minutes per week in a park or nature area might reduce the number of cases of hypertension by 9% and cases of depression by 7%.

From Australia to Scotland, it seems there’s one thing that’s universal: You’re never too old (or young!) to spend more time outdoors.

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