In the Stroller Hikes community, it’s so easy to argue why you should hike; it makes you happier, allows downtime from the hustle of daily life and simply brings out the best of you. For me, whether it’s to push my limits or to relax, hiking provides a space and time period to think with no distractions – just the steady thump of my feet. However, hiking has scientifically proven physical benefits as well, which may be just the incentive for some to bring their kids and take the step outside!
Now with electronics so widely available, children have been spending more time on their devices – and less time exercising and outdoors. This increase in sedentary activities – activities sitting down – has actually been proven to lead to a rise in childhood obesity, sensory issues, and lack of balance.
So how does hiking make a difference in sensory skills? Imagine the senses you use when hiking – eyes to perceive the scenery and trail, ears to listen to your surroundings, occasionally your nose to the smell of trees and flowers – which are inactive when sitting at home staring at a screen.
Additionally, being outside less impacts our bodies – literally. Children who spent less time outdoors had an underdeveloped vestibular system – a portion of the inner ear that helps us balance, important for activities like sports and simple daily activities.
Lastly, the obesity epidemic. As the number of kids outdoors has been dropping; the number of obese children has increased, with childhood obesity tripling from the 1970s to 2002. And the cause is obvious; more time sitting down – and less time active in nature will definitely cause a faster weight gain.
Another issue that could benefit from nature is eyesight. From experience, I know how awful it is to have nearsightedness, in which anything further than a few feet is impossibly blurry. Although I contribute this mostly to genetics and too much time spent on electronics, I’ve discovered another cause through this article: a lack of the outdoors in my childhood.
Recent studies have chosen that the outdoors, specifically exposure to natural light, helps in limiting the growth of the eyeball and essentially hinders nearsightedness. A study at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Meeting in 2011, a similar study at Taiwan, and yet another study from Australian revealed very similar results: “higher levels of total time spent outdoors…were associated with less [nearsightedness]…”
Surprisingly, this means that a usage of electronics is not only the main cause of bad eyesight; it’s simply not stepping outdoors enough! Just a simple hike a day could do wonders, in fact, not only to your mood but to your, and your childrens’ eyes.
Lastly, this might seem contradictory, but getting dirtier in your childhood will make you healthier in the future! Recently, with more antibiotics and medical developments available, we’ve been cleaner than ever – but is this a good thing? The belief of “cleaner is better” has been thoroughly ingrained in us, but in fact more exposure to dirt and nature allows more diverse microorganisms in your skin and body which actually improves your immune system, leading to a decreased risk for illness, disease, and other medical issues such as asthma. In fact, a University of Helsinki study has blamed the increasing prevalence of allergies on the decrease in the biodiversity of our environments. So, interacting with dirt and plants in fact makes people healthier, all the more incentive to go outside.
Now to many in the Stroller Hikes community these reasons may seem unnecessary; we go hiking because we enjoy it! But this simply offers a more comprehensive and scientifically proven list to encourage others to hike, whether for mental and physical benefits.
For more information check out this article: https://www.outdoorproject.com/blog-news/4-scientific-reasons-why-kids-should-be-outdoors?utm_source=Tree-mail&utm_campaign=d011081aff-Maytreemail&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6f91e58cba-d011081aff-30692753.