No matter your age, getting outdoors can be healing and renewing in many ways. With the weather warming and June being the Great Outdoors Month, now is a good time to reflect on all the benefits of spending more time outdoors.

These benefits actually start before we are even born. Several studies show that when pregnant women spend time in nature it promotes fetal growth development and healthier birth weights.

Being outdoors improves our physical health. Research shows that people who spend time outside reduce their chances of becoming near-sighted and have higher levels of vitamin D. Youth who spend time outdoors have increased levels of physical activity and reduced rates of obesity.

The outdoors is also good for our emotional health. Outdoor learning helps youth focus and results in less instances of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. When young people learn in nature, they have better relationship skills and more self-control. They also have lower levels of stress, anger, aggression and disruptive behavior.

When they learn in a natural environment, young people tend to have a greater desire to absorb knowledge and are more engaged with learning. They perform better in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. They also sharpen their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Here are some ideas to help your family spend more time outdoors.

• Plant a garden.

• Explore your backyard and teach your young person about the different bugs, trees and plants that you find. Have them draw a picture of an insect they find or write about a plant they see.

• Take a walk through your neighborhood.

• Ride bikes.

• Play on a swing set.

For more information, contact the McLean County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

Source: Ashley Osborne, 4-H youth development specialist

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