Many of us parents spent our childhood riding bikes, playing outdoors or playing games like baseball or kickball on side streets and in neighbors' backyards. Many children today spend way too much of their time indoors with all the accessibility to electronics. Sitting for hours playing games on their tablets or watching television has led to a scary rise in child obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics also confirms that unstructured outdoor play is critical to the health of children, though many have experienced a marked decline in the time they spend in free play.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012 childhood obesity was Approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years old. One way to combat obesity is to allow children plenty of outdoor playtime. Outdoor play gives children the opportunity to run, jump, climb, swim, dance and more, all of which provide aerobic exercise and strength training. Outdoor physical activity also strengthens the immune system and improves vitamin D levels, which can provide protection from osteoporosis and health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends that children get moderate to vigorous activity that adds up to at least 1 hour per day.
It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions like depression or anxiety, but these issues are becoming more common for today's children, who have busy schedules with school and extracurricular activities. Physical activity in the form of outdoor play can help kids reduce their stress. Scientists have discovered that exercise, like jumping on a trampoline, makes your brain release chemicals that make you feel good - the same chemicals that you get from antidepressants. For mild depression, research shows that physical activity can be as good as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
When children play with other children outdoors, it encourages their social development. Play gives children opportunities to learn how to work in groups, including learning how to share, how to negotiate and how to resolve conflicts. Again, with all the technology available now, children are becoming more and more introverted from developing social skills. Outdoor play in group settings is an easy way to combat this issue.
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