7 benefits of playing outdoors
1. Running wild
Sometimes, all children need is some time to run, shout and get messy. This freedom can characterise a carefree childhood, and adequate physical activity is needed to prevent disease later in life. Being outdoors allows kids to really get their hearts pumping and improve their fitness.
2. Motor and sensory development
Playing outdoors encourages physical development and coordination. It forces kids to move their whole body and enhances their motor skills, flexibility and muscle strength. Sensory development is also improved through outdoor play, as kids are exposed to a variety of sights, sounds and textures.
3. Creativity and imagination
Exploration and make-believe happen easily while children play outside, when they have the freedom to discover the environment.
4. Confidence and cognitive development
Kids feel less inhibited outside, and outdoor play can boost self-esteem and overall confidence. What’s more, outdoor play promotes cognitive development, decision-making, problem-solving, organisational skills and social development.
5. Appreciating nature
Nature is an amazing teacher, and most kids love learning about plants, trees, insects, birds and animals. Connecting to nature in this way also enhances well-being and promotes an understanding of how the world works.
6. Catch some sun
Feeling the sun’s rays automatically lifts one’s mood, promoting wellness along with some vitamin D synthesis. Make sure the kids are wearing sunscreen to avoid skin damage.
7. Breathe that fresh air
The air inside is simply not the same. Being outdoors, whether for a stroll or a game of sport, allows you and the family to enjoy the fresh air.
The information in this article is intended for general purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your child, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.
Healthy living, Learning
Life is out there: The benefits of outdoor activities
The most recent figures from the Welsh Government show that outdoor activity tourism in Wales is worth £481 million. Outdoor activity providers such as Surf-Lines need to continue to attract visitors and locals.
The number of people regularly involved in outdoor activities has grown in the last thirty years, and researchers have reported increases in self-esteem and other positive outcomes as benefits of taking part. In other words, taking part in outdoor activities provides significant psychological and long-lasting benefits. Surprisingly, researchers still do not understand why and how these benefits occur.
For example, why and how does someone who takes part in outdoor activities increase their self-esteem in everyday life? This long-standing question is at the heart of the research that scientists at the School of Sport, Health & Exercise Sciences are looking at in partnership with Surf-Lines.
By understanding what it is about outdoor physical activity that affects wellbeing, the researchers can help Surf-Lines to design programs for maximum impact. Bluntly, Surf-Lines will have a competitive advantage because it will be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of its programs.
So, what is the research story so far? When taking part in an outdoor activity that has some perceived risk emotions arise that individuals have to control in order to do the activity. In other words, they are forced to deal with their emotions (most often fear). In getting a sense of control and influence over the situation and their emotions, individuals learn to cope more effectively with difficult situations in general. The outdoor activity becomes a lesson for life; a lesson in how to deal with difficult situations.
We have found that regular involvement provided individuals with a greater sense of control over their lives and their emotions that then benefited their everyday functioning. Other low-risk sports (e.g. tennis) did not provide these benefits.
Although these are promising findings, an important question remains: Is it crucial that these activities are in outdoor environments or could similar effects be found in indoor environments? The final study is exploring this question looking at swimming in open water.
The thinking is that swimming in open water requires people to respond to an ever-changing environment (e.g. currents, variable unknown depths, wind and waves, poor visibility) that is not needed when swimming indoors. This need to cope with the stress of open water will allow people to develop effective coping strategies for everyday life (e.g. how do I cope with the change in my life circumstances?).
As a direct consequence of this partnership between Bangor University and Surf-lines, Bangor University will further establish itself as a world-leader on the psychological benefits of outdoor activities, and Surf-Lines will be able to market scientifically-validated claims that its outdoor activities provide an effective learning platform for boosting long-lasting wellbeing.
Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.
Authored by Alexandra MacGregor, Professor Tim Woodman, Professor Lew Hardy (School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science) and Phil Nelson (Surf-Lines).
Publication date: 6 November 2014