Playing outside is good for us
January 15, 2024
With two young children, our family likes to go outside and play in the snow. We usually build snow forts because my husband is an expert! While sledding is fun too, our kiddos aren’t quite ready for Mankato’s bigger hills yet.
Kendra Finn DO
Playing, moving and being outside brings joy and health perks for people of all ages. Let’s look at the ways we all benefit from outside time!
We tend to play, exercise and expend more energy outside versus inside. Physical activity is key to building strong muscles and bones and helping us maintain our weight. Exercise and fresh air also improves our sleep quality – making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Being active outdoors can be as simple as a short walk or throwing a football with the kids.
Getting outside in the natural daylight can lift our mood and improve our cognitive function. Studies show that a 15-minute walk outside can boost executive function, which is a set of mental skills that help us stay focused, follow directions, plan and meet goals. That’s why a walk around the block can clear your head!
Outdoor exercise has also shown to be a better mood booster than indoor exercise. In fact, 30 minutes of outdoor exercise can be as beneficial as an antidepressant for mild depression.
If you have limited mobility or health issues that keep you from going outside in the winter, enjoy the natural daylight by opening drapes and blinds to bring the outdoors in.
Did you know sunlight triggers the body to create vitamin D? And vitamin D helps your body absorb more calcium which is essential for bone health and muscle and nerve functions. Vitamin D also helps the body’s immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. I believe that most of us who live in this region are vitamin D deficient and could benefit from a vitamin D supplement in the winter months. Talk to your primary care provider about the right supplement for you.
Growth & Development for Kiddos
Our natural world gives young children many ways to learn and develop. When children head outdoors in the winter, they learn to get around in different environments like snow, ice and uneven terrain. This is important for developing balance and gross motor skills.
Playing outside also helps children regulate their behavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children who spend time in natural settings have less anger and aggression and they are able to better control their impulses.
We also know that playing outside promotes curious and creative thinking. There are lots of problems to solve outside! Watch a child figure out the easiest way up a sledding hill or how to get snow to stick together for a snowman. Studies show that children who spend more time in nature have improved learning outcomes.
So let’s get outdoors! And when it’s time to come in, snuggle up with a cup of tea or cocoa!
- Be careful when it’s icy. Watch for slippery spots and avoid them. Wear shoes or boots with good traction.
- Dress for the weather: coat, hat, mittens, boots. Since outerwear can be expensive, shop thrift stores, accept hand-me-downs and seek help from local organizations such as the Salvation Army’s Bundle Me Warm program.
- Watch the weather. Extremely low temperatures and high winds call for caution. Stay indors during severe winter weather.