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Study Finds Playing Outside Reduces Obesity, Depression

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Children and adults who have access to nature and regularly go outside are less likely to be inactive, obese and depressed, according to a recent report.

A team of 11 researchers with the Institute for European Environmental Policy reviewed more than 200 academic studies and discovered that “access to nature is vital for good mental and physical health at all ages,” the report says.

For example, people living more than 1 kilometer (just over half a mile) from a “green space” are less likely to exercise and more likely to be obese than those living within 1,000 feet of a park, one study out of Denmark found. (RELATED: Bad News For Parents: Your Fat Kid Gets Fatter When You Think He’s Fat)

The report is a summary of an earlier, longer report by the European Commission, which found people who spend time outside, particularly in forests, are less likely to be obese.

The benefits of access to nature go beyond weight and overall health, however. The report points out that children who go outside in nature are less likely to have behavioral problems. Access to nature also decreases a child’s chances of developing allergies in the first six years of life, the report claims.

“The evidence is strong and growing that people and communities can only thrive when they have access to nature,” Robbie Blake, a member of the Friends of the Earth Europe which commissioned the report, told The Guardian.

“We all need nature in our lives, it gives us freedom and helps us live healthily; yet deprived communities are routinely cut off from nature in their surroundings and it is suffocating for their well-being,” Blake said.

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