Benefits of Nature: Green Spaces Make Us Smarter, Study Finds

Never underestimate the benefits of nature. In today’s world where technology reigns supreme, kids are spending less time climbing trees, rolling in the grass and it’s taking its toll. 

According to new research out of Spain, children in second, third and fourth grade who spent time outside showed greater mental development than those who did not.

The study followed more than 2,500 children attending 36 Barcelona schools. The children were given computerized tests every three months during a 15-month period. The tests were designed to measure the children’s working memory and fluid intelligence. The researchers noted the estimated amount of green space children had access to on a regular basis (at home and school), as well as the traffic-related pollution in the schools.

“After one year, kids with greater exposure to green space showed greater increases in these key cognitive abilities, on average, than their peers with less access to grass and trees. Their level of attentiveness also increased at a heightened rate,” reports Pacific Standard

“Our study showed a beneficial association between exposure to green space and cognitive development among schoolchildren,” writes the research team led by Payam Dadvand of Barcelona’s Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology. “This is partly, but not entirely, explained by the fact that kids who get to play in nature are exposed to less air pollution than those who hang out on city streets,” reports Pacific Standard.

“Contact with nature is thought to play a crucial and irreplaceable role in brain development,” the researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences. “Natural environments including green spaces provide children with unique opportunities such as inciting engagement, risk-taking, discovery, creativity, mastery and control, strengthening sense of self, inspiring basic emotional states including sense of wonder, and enhancing psychological restoration.”

Not only does getting outside in nature boost mental development and function, but it’s also better for the body in general. Kids who play outside actually play and that means physical activity such as running, climbing, jumping, etc – which is far better for their health than curling into the couch to play video games. Access to the outdoors has been linked to lower rates of obesity and diabetes among children and a decreased likelihood of allergies as well.

Image: kellyv 



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