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Outdoor Play: Great for Kids (and Adults Too!)

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
A young boy leaping into his father's arms from a log while messing around in a playground at the park

When was the last time you or your child had some fun outdoors? Getting outside and connecting with nature has a variety of health benefits. In fact, some experts call it “vitamin G” for the positive effect the green environment has.

“Yesterday, after taking my dog for a walk, I decided to throw a ball for her. The difference was amazing. The excitement and joy of her jumping, running and chasing was so different – much more fun than she had just walking on the leash. It’s the same for kids,” says University Hospitals pediatric sports medicine specialist Laura Goldberg, MD.

Benefits of Outdoor Play

Exercise is usually thought of as purposeful activity, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s why getting outside and playing is good for body, mind and mood:

It’s unplugged. Kids need outdoor play. In today’s electronic environment, most kids spend just a few minutes outside and hours on screens. Natural environments have been found to relieve anxiety, even if just for a few minutes.

It’s active. Physical strength, body balance and function, and mental sharpness suffer with physical inactivity. More than just for exercise, being active brings relief from stress, reduces anxiety and improves well-being. Kids who spend active time outside are healthier physically and are happier, healthier and less anxious.

It’s creative. Gym class and sports are great exercise. But when kids participate in those, it’s organized play and they’re doing what they’re told to do. Simply playing outside – free play – allows kids to use their imagination, build their own worlds and make their own rules. It stretches their initiative. It allows them to challenge themselves mentally and physically.

Get Outside

Dr. Goldberg suggests taking your kids outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Take the stroller out. Pick flowers. Collect leaves. Visit a petting zoo. Jump rope. Play catch or Frisbee. Race. Go to the playground or make your own challenge course in the backyard. Laugh and goof off for a few minutes. Have fun.

And to stay young, don’t forget to find your own outdoor fun.

Related Links

At UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, we pride ourselves in bringing the expert sports medicine care you need to a convenient location close to where you live. Learn more.

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