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Children in the Outdoors A literature review

Key Message

This review takes an in-depth look at the current themes within health, outdoors and children’s research and highlights how these relate to understanding the links between children’s use of outdoors spaces and health outcomes.

Source

Munoz, Dr. Sarah-Anne. (2009). Children in the Outdoors A literature review. Forres, Scotland: Sustainable Development Research Centre.

Purpose

This review takes an in-depth look at the current themes within health, outdoors and children’s research and highlights how these relate to understanding the links between children’s use of outdoors spaces and health outcomes.

Evidence

Existing studies (e.g. Gass, 1993) suggest that natural environments are salutogenic and that promoting and facilitating their use could be an important component in the fight for enhanced public health and reduced health inequalities. (p 6)

Cohen and Finch (2008), find a link between residential proximity to parks and “neighbourhood social capital” that in turn, they suggest, is a “foundation for underlying health and well-being”. (p 6)

The use of outside spaces is generally associated within existing research with higher levels of physical activity but also with wider wellbeing because it reduces stress, aids recovery and increases socialisation. (p 7)

Research has shown that encouraging children to play may be a key way of increasing their levels of physical activity (Burdette, et. al., 2005). (p. 11)

A lack of physical activity within childhood has also been linked to specific health problems such as osteoporosis (Andersen et. al., 2004; Stratton and Mullan, 2005). (p 11)

Contact with nature has also been seen to be associated with increased creativity and language development (O’Brien and Murray, 2005). (p 15)

Mikkelsen and Christensen (2009) also stress the “companionship” aspect of being outside for children and how it interacts with their use of, and movement through, outdoor spaces. Thomas and Thompson’s (2004) qualitative study of 10 – 11 year olds also highlights the role of the outdoors in facilitating “coming together” with their peers. (p 17)

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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