In examination of the relationship between children’s outdoor behavior and contact with nature along with their physical, mental, and social health and well-being, a recent research study reveals the bottom line :
Physical activity and exposure to nature are fundamental to good health
Author Affiliation: Jules Pretty is with the University of Essex in the UK: Pretty, J., Angus, C., Bain, M., Barton, J., Gladwell, V., Hine, R., et al. (2009).
Nature, childhood, health and life pathways: University of Essex.
In this review, Pretty and colleagues examine the role of physical activity and exposure to nature on health and well-being, with a particular focus on children. The authors discuss the current state of physical inactivity, the positive health benefits of nature contact, and the potential role of green exercise (activity in the presence of nature) toward improving health and well-being. Pretty and colleagues review three stages of childhood and their differing needs, evidence regarding children’s physical activity levels, and the benefits of children’s exposure to nature. The authors discuss the impact of urban design and green space in terms of physical activity and various health outcomes, including cognitive health and learning, as well as the impact of nature-based interventions, such as care farms and wilderness therapy, for children with special needs. Based on their review, Pretty and colleagues propose two conceptual pathways—healthy and unhealthy—that shape our lives and life outcomes. On the healthy pathway, people are active, connected to people and society, engage with natural places, and eat healthy foods and as a result tend to live longer and have a better quality of life. On the unhealthy pathway, people are inactive, disconnected to people and society, do not engage with natural places, and eat unhealthy foods, and as a result die earlier and have a lower quality of life. In concluding their review, Pretty and colleagues make ten recommendations to improve people’s well-being, including increasing children’s outdoor free play and encouraging planners to incorporate access to green space.
The full report is available online at: http://www.essex.ac.uk/ces/occasionalpapers/Nature%20Childhood%20and%20Health%20iCES%20Occ %20Paper