*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MedicalXpress.
The presence of green spaces near homes and schools is strongly associated with improved physical activity and mental health outcomes in kids, according to a massive review of data from nearly 300 studies.
Published online in the journal Pediatrics, the review conducted by Washington State University and University of Washington scientists highlights the important role that exposure to nature plays in children’s health. Importantly, some of the data examined the effects for kids from historically marginalized communities and showed that the benefits of nature exposure may be even more pronounced for them.
“By looking at the full scope of existing quantitative evidence, we were able to see the importance of ready access to nature for both physical and mental health outcomes in childhood,” said Amber Fyfe-Johnson, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor with WSU’s Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH) and the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “Access to nature—and the benefits that come with it—are a necessity, not a nicety. Unfortunately, not all kids are able to have regular nature contact. This is due partly to urbanization, increased screen time and more sedentary indoor lifestyles.”
Although these findings may seem self-evident to some, and the American Academy of Pediatrics routinely recommends outdoor play time, convincing data on the health benefits associated with nature exposure have been lacking, due partly to inconsistencies in study methodologies and definitions of outdoor time. The authors point out that not all time spent outside is equal—a parking lot is not a park, and an urban playground without natural elements is not a garden.