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The Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Health

In this modern age of computers, smartphones and streaming entertainment, lots of kids spend too much time indoors and are inactive. Making an effort to get outside and get moving provides tremendous benefits for physical and mental health. Whether hiking, swimming, playing sports or even just a vigorous game of tag, outdoor activities get the heart pumping and muscles working in ways that passive screen time simply cannot match.

Improved Fitness and Weight Management

Increased cardiovascular fitness and calorie burning to maintain a healthy weight are among the most obvious upsides of outdoor exercise. The CDC recommends children get 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Going for a bike ride, playing basketball at the park, or swimming laps at the community pool are all excellent ways for kids to meet this goal while having fun. If you do not have your own bike, you can always use a bike rental service from companies like Canyon Sports based out of Utah.

Stronger Muscles and Bones

Weight-bearing activities like running, jumping rope, or climbing trees place healthy stress on bones, which responds by building greater bone density during childhood and adolescence. This lays the foundation for strong, fracture-resistant bones later in life. The resistance involved in activities like climbing also builds muscle strength and endurance. Encouraging a mix of high-impact weight-bearing activities and muscle-strengthening exercises provides well-rounded musculoskeletal benefits.

Better Sleep and Mood

The physical exertion of outdoor play naturally helps kids sleep better at night, which is important for growth, healing, and cognitive function. But the mood benefits go beyond just feeling tired in a good way after being active. Exposure to natural sunlight increases Vitamin D levels and prompts the brain to produce serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter that elevates mood. Many studies link regular outdoor time with reduced stress, anxiety, and depression risk.

Fresh Air and Vitamin D Boost

Speaking of Vitamin D, up to 50% of kids may have insufficient levels of this crucial nutrient. Along with its role in bone health and immune function, research suggests vitamin D deficiency may contribute to conditions like asthma, type 2 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Of course, the best way to get vitamin D is directly from sunlight exposure during outdoor activities. Fresh air is also of a higher quality than the recycled indoor variety, delivering more oxygen and fewer contaminants.

Improved Focus and Academic Performance

The mental benefits of active outdoor play for kids extend beyond mood. Many studies show that children can concentrate better, have longer attention spans, and perform better on tests of memory and focus after periods of outdoor activity and exposure to nature. Moderate exercise also stimulates growth factors that boost brain cell production and connectivity. Teachers consistently observe improved behavior, attentiveness and academic performance in students who get regular activity breaks.

Social and Character Development

Many outdoor pastimes are social in nature, teaching cooperation, conflict resolution and teamwork. Group sports, for example, provide a forum for developing communication abilities, empathy, and a sense of belonging. Even solitary pursuits like hiking build self-reliance, decision-making and problem-solving aptitudes as kids navigate unstructured outdoor settings. Character traits like perseverance, self-confidence and responsibility frequently grow through nature-based challenges.


There is a wide world of adventure and opportunities for whole-body benefits waiting right outside your door. So rally the kids, grab some snacks and water, then head out to your local park, playground, pool or trail for an active outing in the fresh air and sunshine. Making outdoor play and exercise a priority provides a huge developmental boost for growing minds and bodies.

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