Nature Makes Our Kids Physically Healthier

As you well know, kids who spend time outside tend to be healthier. But we may not know exactly how they’re healthier. Here are a few stats.

Obesity

Suggestion:

Children need 60 minutes of physical activity every day (American Academy of Pediatrics).

Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Vitamin D can be produced in the skin by exposure to the sun (your body converts cholesterol to vit D).
  • With kids spending more time indoors, they have limited doses of sunlight and don’t produce as much vitamin D as they need (and they’re not getting enough from their diet).
  • Vitamin D is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium from our diet.
  • Low levels of vitamin D are associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma in children, and cognitive impairment in older adults.
  • Research suggests that vitamin D might also play a role in diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.
  • 9% of US children are vitamin D deficient (American Bone Health).
  • 61% of US children had insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood (American Bone Health).

Suggestion:

Get 10 minutes of direct sunshine a day before putting on sunscreen (WebMD).

 

Nearsightedness

  • Research suggests that kids who spend more time outside during the day tend to have better distance vision than kids who prefer staying indoors.
  • In a study of 191 13-year-olds, researchers found that children who were nearsighted spent an average of 8 hours outside per week. The children who were not nearsighted spent 13 hours outside per week. Nearsighted children also watched more TV. There was no correlation with time spent studying,┬áreading,s or using a computer (Optometry & Vision Science, 2009).
  • A recent study suggests that time outdoors lessens the likelihood of becoming myopic, but once a child is nearsighted, outdoor time does nothing to prevent progression (Acta Ophthalmalogica).
  • However, one study suggests that time outdoors does not have a protective affect on developing nearsightedness (Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science).

Suggestion:

Be sure to get plenty of outdoor time in when your kids are little to potentially help prevent the onset of nearsightedness.

By getting outside for 60 minutes of physical activity or your 10 minutes of vitamin D therapy, your child is also using muscles to focus on images far and near. This may help them prevent or lessen nearsightedness, although more research is necessary.

 

References:

Jane Gwiazda, Ph.D., director, research, and professor, Department of Vision Science, The New England College of Optometry, Boston; Howard C. Howland, professor, neurobiology and behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; January 2009, Optometry and Vision Science

 

 

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