Did you know spending time in nature is good for your health? There is growing recognition that we all need to spend a little more time outside, and for good reason. Time in nature has been found to boost immunity and improve mood, reduce stress, and increase resilience. For kids, time in nature can potentially support cognitive development, social and emotional development, academic success, and short and long term mental health. Beyond personal health, there is also evidence that spending time in nature during childhood can contribute to the development of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors that persist into adulthood.
The cool thing is, it doesn’t need to be a lot of nature. You can experience the benefits by spending 5 minutes in green space, looking at nature out a window, or even looking at pictures of nature. However, for kids today, opportunities to spend time in nature are more limited than they were for previous generations and they don’t spend much time outside.
At the same time, young people are experience greater rates of stress and anxiety relative to past decades, and human activity is impacting the environment in a way that is unsustainable and damaging to human health. Spending time in nature is not a cure-all for these pressing challenges, but it is a simple, accessible, and quick intervention that can have a sustained impact on the health of individuals and the planet.
At Cornell’s Master of Public Health Program, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Planet project is focusing on creating opportunities for kids to get more time in nature. Working with schools, to facilitate access to the benefits for all kids, we hope to identify and support ways to add a little more nature to the school day. Based on the research, adding time in nature to kids’ days can support health and development now, and may increase kids’ willingness to take care of the planet in the future. Healthy kids, for a healthy planet, and a sustainable future.
But you don’t need to be a kid to experience the benefits of nature. For this last day of National Public Health Week, take 10 minutes to notice the nature around you— find a tree to look at out the window, walk through the grass around your building, take a phone call out in a park—and see how it makes you feel!
Written by Amie Patchen, PhD. Post-doctoral Fellow, Cornell MPH Program