A growing body of evidence suggests that today’s children are unhealthy. The World Health Organisation has called the rapid rise in childhood obesity “one of the most serious public healthy challenges of the 21st century.”
Health experts suggest that an effective way to combat the threat of ill-health among our young is to encouraging children to go on nature walks. Being in the great outdoors offers numerous benefits for their physical, cognitive, and emotional development.
Improve Physical Health
Nature walks provide an opportunity for children to engage in physical activity and exercise. With the amount of sugar and added preservatives been stuffed into processed food that is widely available, instilling healthy exercise habits in children from a young age can help them to avoid obesity and a growing list of diseases attributed to processed food.
Walking on uneven terrain, navigating trails, and exploring natural environments helps develop their gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. Regular physical activity promotes cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles and bones, and helps maintain a healthy weight.
Technology is also a significant contributory factor to the decline of cognitive function and poor mental health. Spending time in nature has a positive impact on mental well-being for both children and adults.
Nature walks provide a break from the fast-paced, technology-driven world, allowing children to relax, unwind, and connect with the natural world. Being in green spaces has been linked to reduced stress, improved mood, increased creativity, and enhanced attention and focus.
Nature walks stimulate curiosity, exploration, and learning. Being in natural surroundings exposes children to a rich sensory experience, including sights, sounds, smells, and textures. They can observe and learn about plants, animals, insects, and the natural cycles of life. Nature walks also foster problem-solving skills as children encounter obstacles, make decisions, and adapt to their environment.
Mental health risks have also been found to start in early childhood — particularly the relationship children have with their protective and nurturing parents.
Nature walks offer an opportunity for quality family time and that all-important bonding. Engaging in outdoor activities together strengthens family relationships, encourages communication, and creates lasting memories. It provides a platform for parents and children to connect, engage in meaningful conversations, and share experiences.
Both walking and nature are shown to have numerous health benefits, including improved immune function, reduced risk of myopia (nearsightedness), and increased exposure to vitamin D from sunlight.
Simply being around natural environments has also shown to have positive effects on mood and overall wellbeing. Exposure to nature contributes to your emotional health by reducing blood pressure and the production of stress hormones.
To make nature walks more engaging and enjoyable for children, parents can involve them in planning the walks, pack a picnic, play nature-based games, or encourage them to document their findings through drawings, photos, or a nature journal.
By encouraging children to go on nature walks, parents are nurturing their holistic development, fostering a love for nature, and instilling values of environmental responsibility.