Why being outdoors is the best thing for kids’ health
If there is one end-goal all of us parents have for our kids in summer, it’s for them to take advantage of all the good weather and get outdoors and off their screens. Summer camp, mercifully, makes that easy to achieve so they can reap the real health benefits of being outdoors.
Many studies show that taking a walk outside can help boost your mood. Called “green exercise” or even “forest bathing” when it takes place in the woods, a simple nature walk can lower inflammation, fight depression and anxiety, and lower blood pressure.
Considering the weekly hikes we take, our daily activities on our outdoor adventure course — not to mention our overnight and multi-day camping trips and simply being surrounded by the White Mountains of New Hampshire for weeks on end — our campers are essentially forest bathing every waking hour at camp!
Being outdoors has other special health benefits for kids, too.
Time outside can actually decrease their risk of near-sightedness or myopia (and help them see the forest and the trees!)
Nature walks even allow us to focus more. In a study of children with ADHD, those who took a 20-minute walk in a city park — as opposed to more urban settings — were able to concentrate better afterward.
And if you’ve ever hit upon a new idea after a walk outside, you know that being surrounded by greenery is often more conducive to problem-solving than sitting behind a computer. The research backs this up too–after four days of intensive nature, a group in one study boosted their creative problem-solving abilities by 50%. The researchers concluded that it was the emotionally positive, low-arousing stimuli of nature that helped counteract the constant switching between tasks and the attention-grabbing nature of technology.
Being outdoors could even help you exercise more strenuously than you might at a gym! One study of Austrians hiking through “Sound of Music” country found that not only did their moods improve, “almost all the participants reported that the outdoor effort had felt less strenuous to them than their time on the treadmill” indoors — even though their Alpine mountain hike was a much tougher workout.
Kids 8 and under on average spend around two hours and 19 minutes a day on screens. For 8 to 12 years olds and tweens, double those hours! (Yikes!) All that time comes at a cost to outdoor play, which has dropped dramatically compared to our own childhoods. (This British survey found kids today spend 50% less time outdoors than their parents did as kids).
These are scary statistics — but luckily sleepaway camp is just the kind of immersive, outdoor experience that our kids desperately need. All the mental health experts and medical researchers seem to agree.