From: Robin Blackstone, ENN
Published May 14, 2014 11:34 AM

Go out and play!

New research confirms the health benefits associated with outdoor play for children. New research from the University of Bristol shows that while most children spend the largest amount of their after-school time indoors either alone or with their parents, hours spent outdoors with friends has the greatest positive affect on a child's level of physical activity. The correlation works out like this: children get an extra 17 minutes of physical activity for every hour of time spent outdoors.

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Bristol University's Dr. Angela Page said, "We found that children spend most of their after-school time indoors and little time outdoors playing with other children, which makes the biggest contribution to the amount of physical activity they get. Building stronger neighborhood community links between parents and children could restore the social norm of children playing outdoors and relieve some concerns parents may have about safety."

"Being active is also beneficial in other areas of physical and mental well-being. This research demonstrates how children are most active when they’re playing outside with friends, so we should be looking at ways we can encourage this in a safe environment."

Dr. Rachel Thompson, Head of Research Interpretation at World Cancer Research Fund, added: "There is evidence that physical activity protects against cancer, particularly bowel cancer, one of the most common forms of the disease in the UK. Getting into healthy habits during childhood is a big advantage when it comes to reducing the risk of getting cancer in later life, as active children are more likely to become active adults."

The study sampled 427 children aged 10 to 11 from the United Kingdom. The intensity of their physical activity was measured with accelerometers while GPS determined whether they were indoors or outdoors. The children used diaries to record with whom they spent their time. The research was part of the Personal and Environmental Associations with Children’s Health (PEACH) project and published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

There is a stronger link between being outdoors and physical activity for both boys and girls than there is for being indoors and physical activity. Time spent indoors with friends was positively linked with physical activity but not as strongly as when outdoors (a child's physical activity with friends per hour indoors was recorded at only six minutes).

Read more at the University of Bristol.

Kids with a kite image via Shutterstock.

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