One simple change reduces a child’s risk of anxiety, depression, and even cancer

“But baby, it’s cold outside…”

A few weeks ago, this charming holiday classic was the latest target of the “politically correct police.” And, sadly, it seems more and more people are using these words as an excuse to avoid physical activity or spend time in Nature.

In fact, in many school systems across the United States, students are no longer sent out to play for recess when temperatures drop below 32° F. Which means many of them spend all day the entire winter cooped up inside the classroom.

And when many kids go home, their parents don’t make them go outside either. Even in good weather! It’s sad, really…

Instead of using their imaginations and expending energy, they must feed their addiction to vision-damaging screens.

In fact, according to a recent survey of 12,000 parents in 10 countries, one-third of children ages five to 12 years of age spend less than 30 minutes outside each day.

This startling fact is the premise driving one laundry detergent’s latest marketing campaign, “Free the Kids — Dirt is Good.”

In it, they address the fact that today, kids are spending less time outside than prison inmates, who average about two hours each day. Indeed, yard time is often the highlight of a prisoner’s day. And experts say reducing it to just one hour per day would have devastating, harmful physical and mental consequences for the inmates.

Yet — according to this new survey — many children don’t even get half that amount!

Another study found that more than one in nine children haven’t visited a beach, forest, park, or any type of natural environment in the past 12 months. And experts say this lack of regular, ongoing exposure to Nature has made children unsociable, unimaginative, and inactive.

I’d also add that it’s making children physically and mentally ill…

Lack of exposure to Nature has devastating effects

I often write about the importance of spending time in Nature. It has long-term benefits for both your physical and mental health. And for children, the benefits are even more pronounced.

For one, being outside gives children room and reason to be more active. And research shows getting daily physical activity protects children from ADHD, anxiety, depression, obesity, and stress.

Plus, between April and October in most parts of the country, exposure to the sun’s rays activates children’s natural production of vitamin D. That is, if you dare to send your child out in the sun without sunscreen!

And as I reported in the May 2018 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“Setting the record straight on “too high” vitamin D dosages”), 20 minutes without sunscreen is enough to fulfill the vitamin D needs of you and your children. (Not a subscriber? No problem. Click here to find out how you can get started today.)

Studies also show that achieving optimal vitamin D levels is essential in preventing cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and just about every other chronic disease on the planet. In fact, as I found in my research for my Ph.D. dissertation, higher vitamin D levels in childhood are key in preventing the development of many chronic diseases later in life.

Playing in the dirt can boost kids’ immune health

In addition, as I recently reported, exposure to dirt benefits children’s developing immune systems. And lack of exposure during childhood has been linked to leukemia.

So, my advice — for the young and the old alike?

Get outside daily — even at this time of year. Sure, the sun isn’t high enough in the sky in most parts of the country to activate vitamin D production in your skin. But there are many other direct benefits to sun exposure on the skin and through the eyes. So bundle up! Wear layers and keep your toes, hands, head, and neck warm.

I suggest working your muscles and getting your heart rate up with some skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, sledding, or tobogganing. Or just put on a pair of snow boots and head out into the countryside for a walk to breathe the clean, crisp, pine-scented air.

And if the mood strikes, you can even build a snowman (or snow woman). Then, when you get back home, roast some nutritious chestnuts on an open fire in the backyard, or the fireplace, with a heart-healthy glass of mulled wine.

And if someone protests, “But baby, it’s cold outside,” simply reply, “I really can’t stay…(indoors all the time), and I really must go…outside!”

The results will be music to your ears.


“Kids Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prisoners,” Return to Now ( 3/28/2016