Outdoor Kids Become Happier Adults!
Most of us have heard it; you may have even said it yourself as your eyes scan the mountains, streams and open spaces that make up the Ogden Valley: “What a great place to raise kids.” While this may be common sense to many of us, new research has shown that being raised near wild spaces can be even more impactful than we previously thought. A recent study from Aarhus University in Denmark determined that children raised with access to nature grew up to be happier adults.
The study, published in February 2019, looked at data from nearly one million Danish residents over the course of almost three decades. After adjusting for various factors, including family mental health history, researchers found that children with the least access to green space had a 55-percent greater chance of suffering from mental health issues as adults.
That children are happy when playing outside is obvious to anyone who has watched a group of kids throw sticks into a flowing stream. The Aarhus study, however, suggests the benefits of being out in nature as a kid extend into adult hood.
“Our data show a consistent association between higher levels of green space during childhood and a lower risk of developing any of a multitude of psychiatric disorders later in life,” the study reads. “Our results complement other studies showing positive associations between nature and mental health.”
Those “other studies” number in the hundreds and go back decades. Published in 1984, the book Biophilia suggests that humans have an innate affinity for nature. Though the New York Times recently called the arguments put forth by author Edward O. Wilson “mostly aspiration dressed as hypothesis,” subsequent research continues to back his premise.
In the 2008 book Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv contends that the disconnection with nature is contributing to many of today’s childhoods illnesses, including anxiety, attention deficit, depression, and obesity.“Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature,” Louv writes. “Among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illness.”
For Louv, the solution is not as simple as signing your kids up for little league or soccer. “The physical exercise and emotional stretching that children enjoy in unorganized play is more varied and less time-bound than is found in organized sports,” he writes. “Playtime—especially unstructured, imaginative, exploratory play—is increasingly recognized as an essential component of wholesome child development.”
For her book, The Nature Fix, published in 2017, author Florence Williams followed researchers from three continents to learn the benefits of connecting with nature. Her findings were similar. “We all need nearby nature: we benefit cognitively and psychologically from having trees, bodies of water, and green spaces just to look at,” she writes. “Short exposures to nature can make us less aggressive, more creative, more civic minded and healthier overall.”
While the very act of being in nature is therapeutic in itself, Williams asserts that there are also side benefits in what nature helps—or sometimes forces—us to do. “Nature appears to act directly upon our autonomic systems, calming us,” she writes. “But it also works indirectly, through facilitating social contact and through encouraging exercise and physical
These findings have recently moved off the pages of self-help books, and into the medical community. Since 2014, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California has operated a program called SHINE (Stay Healthy in Nature Everyday) that takes patients on monthly excursions to local parks. Similar park-prescription programs are popping up worldwide. Park Rx America, a non-profit that advocates for such programs, works with nearly 200 medical providers in 34 states. Doctors in Shetland, Scotland, under authorization of the local health board, began writing “nature prescriptions” in 2018. None of these works suggest that you have to live in a mountain town to reap the health benefits of being in nature. A city park, river trail, or nature walk can offer many of the same advantages. It’s certainly easier, though, when you live in a community anchored by access to public lands, trails, and recreation areas. In other words, this is a great place to raise kids.
4 Ideas for Getting Kids Outside
- Green Pond Trail – Green Pond checks a lot of boxes for a kid-friendly hike. Access is easy, the trail is well-marked, wooded and mostly shady, and there is a picnic area with a pond just less than a mile in. From there, your walk can be extended for essentially as long as you’d like, or you can head back to the trailhead. The trail is a favorite for local mountain bikers, so be alert.
- 365 Trail NF Park – With a total elevation gain/loss of about 500 vertical feet, this new addition to North Fork Park is the ideal intro to mountain biking for kids. The trail is a rolling 2 1/3 miles with multiple possible bailouts where it comes in contact with camp sites and the park road. There are no big climbs or steep descents, and it is wide with flowy, bermed turns.
- Causey Reservoir – The beauty of the Valley’s “other” reservoir is that motorized water craft are not allowed. While Causey can be crowded, you can still float around in relative serenity. There are a handful of quiet coves in the farther reaches of the lake, which is surrounded by hiking trails and features jumpable rocks and cliffs for just about any age and courage level.
- GOAL Summer Camps – The Goal foundation (getoutan- dlive.org) features four summer camps designed to provide an affordable introduction to outdoor activities for kids as young as 6 years old, and up to 15. Options include introductions to climbing, mountain biking, and hiking, as well as an advanced hiking pro- gram that features an overnight trip at Causey.
The Ogden Valley is a great place to get out and explore nature. Stay in an Eden, Utah vacation rental and enjoy close proximity to Powder Mountain Resort and Pineview Reservoir. Once you experience the beauty of Ogden Valley, you won’t want to leave. Find your dream home with Eden homes for sale or Huntsville, Ut real estate. There’s no such thing as a bad day in the mountains, let us be your guide.