Nature is important health influence

Even though we live in a completely temperate climate, rain often keeps patients indoors

  • Monday, October 8, 2018 2:05pm
  • Life

By Dr. Danette Glassy

As a pediatrician in well visits with children and their families, I emphasize taking daily care of health through good nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep.

We always talk about being safe,and for the teens about staying away from things that are harmful like vaping, alcohol and drugs. But recently I have started to emphasize another important health influence: Nature.

Epidemiological studies suggest that when children spend time in nature they have:

• Increased physical activity

• Reduced risk of obesity

• Increased likelihood of remaining active into adolescence

• Reduced stress, anger and aggression

• Reduced risk of being nearsighted

• Boosted performance in school

• Increased focus and the greener the space, the better the focus

• Enhanced creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.

(See the Children and Nature Network research library online at www.childrenandnature.org/learn/research/.)

When I began to focus on this issue with families, I believed that our families of young children often got outside. But I have found that mostly babies and toddlers are experiencing nature from their stroller. It would be better for these babies and toddlers to be down on the ground to enjoy this time directly. Hold the babies up to touch the plants and rocks, point out the bugs and animals all around. Let the toddlers run and touch and play. Waiting until they are older may never happen.

I also found that even though we live in a completely temperate climate, rain often keeps my patients indoors. As the saying goes, “We do not melt.” Take young children outside even in the rain, just dress appropriately. I was so saddened by a recent 6-year-old who told me she was “not an outdoor girl.”

I have the privilege of serving on the board of directors for BestStart Washington, a nonprofit dedicated to building the resilience of children through partnerships in the community. The board of directors has chosen to develop a communications project that promotes young children exploring nature. We are making it easy to find green space. We are making it easy to be inspired to go outside. We are making it easy to connect with local community opportunities to explore nature from the back porch to a park or nature setting.

Check out the Project Nature website online at www.projectnaturewa.com. Families can enter their ZIP code and find nature experiences. There are blogs to inspire time in nature anywhere and for any age. Sign up for social media posts. Go outside today and every day.

Dr. Danette Glassy, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at Mercer Island Pediatrics, providing a medical home for her patients for over 20 years. She is also an active child advocate working to improve the health and well-being of children and their families across the country. In this column she shares information of interest to families and caregivers as their child’s primary advocate. Information is her own view and not medical advice.

More in Life

(Left to right) Julie Hamp, Andy Hamp, Sue Hamp and Sue Anderson provide musical entertainment at the 2017 Firehouse Munch. This year, the Barrelhouse Gang will offer New Orleans-style swing jazz. Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island
Mercer Island brings diverse holidays to Firehouse Munch

The annual Firehouse Munch will take place after the city’s Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 7.

Work party at Homestead

Another work party scheduled for Dec. 1

Caruccio’s culinary event center donates 20 Thanksgiving dinners

The meals, assembled by volunteers from a charity league, were given to Youth and Family Services.

<strong>Stewart will preform her concert series, “A Season for Singing” in various libraries throughout King County. She started off the holiday season with a concert in Skykomish on Nov. 16. Families can visit the KCLS website to find Stewart’s upcoming concerts. Courtesy of Nancy Stewart.</strong>
Nancy Stewart’s ‘A Season for Singing’ concert coming to a library near you

King County Library System prepares for its annual Season of Stories and Songs.

Mercer Island tree lot returns

The beloved holiday tradition will be in a new location this year.

Harvest Market returns Nov. 18

The event is the last one of the Mercer Island Farmers Market’s 2018 season.

Island Park kindergarteners sing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” at the school’s Veterans Day assembly on Nov. 8. Photo courtesy of Craig Degginger
Veterans Day at Island Park

Students celebrate veterans during assembly.

Mercer Island Rotary Club launches Music Mends Minds

The first meeting was on Oct. 24, and the next one is Nov. 27.

Seeking a positive attitude for wellness

A column about aging and health.

Detox for your body and mind

Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a naturopathic primary care doctor.

Dear YFS: What is alcohol-induced amnesia?

Many dangers from blacking out or passing out from too much alcohol.

Tips for preserving our family history for posterity

Write memories down before they’re lost.