As we all know, physical activity is vital for ourselves and for our children, but did you know that we get even more benefit from playing freely outdoors, especially when we do it together? It’s been shown in that getting active outside actually adds to the benefits. According to a study referenced in Science World Report, children who get play actively outside are physically active for more than twice the amount of time than children romping inside (1).
Additionally, free play has the potential to improve many aspects of emotional well-being in children and adults, such as minimizing anxiety, depression, aggression, and sleep problems. In adults, physical activity can decrease depressive symptoms, while physical inactivity has been shown to increase the risk of developing depression. Exercise in adults has also been shown to lessen both chronic and acute anxiety. Studies in older children have shown that improved mood and emotional well-being are associated with physical activity. Mood may be affected not only by the physical activity itself but also by exposure to sunlight if the activity occurs outdoors (2).
Play has the potential to improve all aspects of children’s well-being – physical, emotional, social, and cognitive – and even more so when done outside. Why play outside? Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for several reasons, perhaps the most important of which are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and aiding normal immune system function. For children, getting a sufficient amount of Vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases, including heart disease. Also, when we don’t get enough vitamin D, we’re at risk of developing bone abnormalities such as osteomalacia (soft bones) or osteoporosis (fragile bones), as well as multiple sclerosis and arthritis (3). And the easiest (and most fun) way for all of us all to get our daily dose of Vitamin D is by getting outside (in conjunction with eating Vitamin D-rich foods, such as salmon and egg yolks and taking a high-quality supplement).
Of course, when you have young children, babywearing helps make getting outside with your children so much easier.
So, grab your baby, your Onya and get outside!
Happy Babywearing Adventures!
1. Matthew Pearce, Angie S Page, Tom P Griffin and Ashley R Cooper. Who children spend time with after school: associations with objectively recorded indoor and outdoor physical activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
2. Hillary L. Burdette, MD, MS; Robert C. Whitaker, MD, MPH. Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2005;159(1):46-50. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.1.46.
3. Healthline.com: The Benefits of Vitamin D. The Healthline Editorial Team. Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA, 20 May 2013.