We all know the feeling of raising our faces to the sun and basking in its warm glow, or breathing in the salty ocean air, or feeling cool grass under our bare feet. There’s just something about these experiences that makes us feel good. And lately, the science has been backing up what we already intuitively knew. Spending time in nature has a variety of mental and physical health benefits, for kids and adults alike.
Maura Saurman, Science Camp Director at Germantown Academy, says there’s a fancy word for this: biophilia. The word refers to the fact that humans love living things, but the theory explains the effect being in and around nature has on our well-being. And the great part is, even a little bit helps! Here are some of the top ways nature makes us healthier:
1. Improves Mood
Studies have found that people are happier and more relaxed after spending time in nature. Walks in the forest are specifically associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods. Who doesn’t feel better after a day in the park or a sunset stroll?
2. Relieves Stress
People who spend time in nature show lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. They also show lower blood pressure and inflammation, as well as increased immune activity. Health organizations are taking notice of these benefits; there is even a Parks Prescription program in the U.S. now!
3. Strengthens Memory
Students at the University of Michigan were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups. One group took a walk around an arboretum and the other half took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than the first time.
4. Eases ADD/ADHD
Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign showed that children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD concentrate better and have a general reduction of symptoms after spending time in nature. This dose of green doesn’t need to be a major excursion; benefits have been seen in a simple walk down a tree-lined street.
5. Builds Self-Esteem
Children exposed to the natural world have also shown increases in self-esteem. They felt it taught them how to take risks, unleashed their creativity, and gave them a chance to exercise, play, and discover. What a great way to help a growing child develop!
If your children could benefit from a nature fix this summer, visit https://www.germantownacademy.net/summer to review the ways they incorporate nature into their camp programming, including daily access to the Wissahickon Creek, The Wetland Preserve, and the school’s playgrounds and athletic fields.
About Germantown Academy Day Camp & Summer Programs: At Germantown Academy, children ages 3 to 16 enjoy an exciting traditional day camp experience, instructional sports camps, overnight trips, and specialized summer programs in the arts and sciences at the school’s beautiful campus.