The Benefits of Outside Games for Kids: Boost Physical and Mental Health

| 11/3/2015 2:08:00 PM

Tags: exercise, parenting, healthy families, nature deficit disorder, games, Chelsea Clark, Texas,


You hear it more and more recently, “kids don’t play outside anymore.” But with a shift towards being indoors instead of out, engaging with technology instead of nature, and sitting instead of moving, what exactly are kids missing out on? Research shows that children’s physical and mental health are both taking a toll. Encouraging outside games for kids is important in promoting their health and well being.

Physical Benefits of Active Play

Exercise is as important for kids as it is for adults. Physical activity is important for kids to have healthy bones, good physical fitness, and low levels of inflammation in the body. One study in children 7 to 11 years old, for example, found that breaking up continuous sitting with only 3 minutes of moderate walking every 30 minutes improved insulin functioning.[1]  Plus, being active helps kids socially and academically as well. Read more about some of the benefits of physical activity for kids in Active Body, Active Mind: Why Kids Need Recess.

So how can you make sure your child is getting enough activity? One of the best ways is to make sure they have plenty of outdoor time. Playing outside, with access to nature and green space, is particularly important for kids’ health.

Why Kids Need to Play Outdoors

Getting outdoors more is of the upmost importance for kids. A review on outdoor play published in June 2015 found that more outdoor time for children is related to higher levels of physical activity and reduced sedentary time, and it may also have benefits on measures of cardio-respiratory fitness.[2] Another study presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes on September 15, 2015 looked at data from 19,000 children. They found significant associations between obesity and low levels of access to green space, as well as not having a garden.[3] Specifically, they found that no garden access from ages three to five years old increased the risk for being overweight or obese at age seven by 35 percent. Low levels of green space raised the risk by 14 percent.[3]

Kids with ADHD can also benefit from tremendously from outdoor play in nature. One study found that “overall, green play settings were consistently linked with milder ADHD symptoms than non-green play settings.”[4]

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