I am a huge fan of Richard Louv and his book, “Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” . I love anything that encourages children to spend time outdoors and the natural world around them.
There are obvious physical benefits to spending time outdoors as children are more likely to be active – walking, climbing, running – if they are outside than inside. There are studies that also show that time spent outdoors improves children’s minds by improving concentration, creativity, and problem solving while reducing ADHD symptoms. There are even studies that show that mood and outlook are improved in children that have regular time outdoors.
I would rather write a prescription for safe, outdoor play for my pediatric patients than see them five years later with depression, anxiety and obesity, says Wendy Kohatsu, M.D. with Santa Rosa Family Medicine and assistant clinical professor at the University of California in San Francisco.
Colorado Senator Mark Udall understands this “good thing” too and has even brought the issue before Congress in the form of the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act of 2011.
Here are some comments from Senator Udall himself:
“Our sedentary lifestyles have led to many public health problems, such as epidemic levels of childhood obesity, and even national security concerns: nearly one in four applicants to the military is rejected for being overweight. This summer, I spearheaded a Kids to Parks initiative to engage the next generation of American youth in the outdoors. That’s also why I introduced the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (S.1802), along with my House colleague Rep. Ron Kind, to help Americans, especially kids, connect with healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles. Connecting with the outdoors is an excellent way to promote good physical and mental health and bolster America's conservation legacy. It also supports our vibrant outdoor economy, which is especially important in Colorado and to our rural mountain communities.”
In an increasingly sedentary world, obesity has become a major public health problem. The obesity epidemic is particularly prominent among children, who spend on average just 4-7 minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play while spending an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of electronic media. In addition to the economic strain obesity-related health problems have on our country, an unhealthy population is also threatening national security: nearly one in four applicants to the military is rejected for being overweight,which is the most common reason for medical disqualification.To combat these disturbing trends, the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would encourage state-level planning to ensure that appropriate programs and infrastructure are in place so that Americans can effectively connect with active, outdoor experiences. Research demonstrates the myriad physical and mental health benefits of active lifestyles that make use of green spaces outside the home. The goal of the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act is to make it easier for all Americans to connect with the outdoors and realize those benefits.
The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will improve public health, especially among children, support economic growth and strengthen the future of conservation in America.
¢ Health Benefits “ Spending time outdoors in nature is beneficial to physical, mental, and emotional health and has been proven to decrease symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, stimulate brain development, reduce stress, increase creativity, and improve mood.
¢ Economic Benefits “ Outdoor recreation is a $730 billion a year industry in America and growing. It has grown by more than 6 percent in 2011, outpacing U.S. economic growth overall. As more and more Americans participate in outdoor activities, they will be supporting a large and growing cadre of supply stores,manufacturers, guides, hotels, and other businesses that are the backbone of many communities,especially in rural parts of the country.
¢ Conservation Benefits “ A direct childhood experience with nature promotes a long-term connection to the natural world and America's conservation legacy. For example, research demonstrates that hunters who become engaged in the sport as children are among the most active and interested hunters as adults.
The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act authorizes federal financial assistance to eligible entities, in cooperation with local partners, for development of state-level strategic plans designed to help Americans effectively connect with active, outdoor experiences. The plans must give preference to populations with limited opportunities to experience nature and must be updated at least every five years based on evaluations of the strategy and lessons learned from its implementation. Each eligible entity is required to provide 25 percent in non-federal matching funds. The Act also directs the President to develop, with significant public input, a national plan, aligned withthe state-level plans, to get Americans active outdoors. In addition, the Act directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of the health impacts ofthe state-level strategies, provide technical assistance to eligible entities that receive funds, and disseminate best practices learned fromthe state-level strategies.The Act authorizes $15 million over five years to carry out the Act. These funds must supplement and not supplant funds already available from federal, state or local programs that accomplish the goals of the Act
The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, S. 1802, sponsored by Senator Mark Udall (CO), was introduced in the Senate on November 3, 2011 and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
So what do you think about the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act of 2011? We’d love to read your comments.