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Home HortTechnology Indoor, Outdoor Play Time Correlated with Children’s Health
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SAN MARCOS, TX—Children's health problems are making news daily. In the United States, serious health-related issues such as childhood asthma, diabetes, and obesity are alarmingly on the rise. What part do parents' attitudes play in their children's health? Finding out may be a way to develop healthy solutions to these distressing trends.

"With increasing concerns regarding children's health problems, parental decisions about childhood activity are becoming critically important," said Danielle Hammond, the lead author of a new study on parental attitudes toward children's outdoor recreation. Hammond and colleagues Amy McFarland, Jayne Zajicek, and Tina Waliczek investigated the relationship between parents' attitudes toward outdoor environments, their children spending time outdoors, and how these attitudes related to their children's overall health. The study results were published in HortTechnology.

The study sample consisted of parents of children age 6–13 who accessed the survey from a gardening web site. The online survey included questions about parents' attitudes toward nature, parents' attitudes toward their child's outdoor recreation, an inventory of potential children's health problems, the time children spent in various indoor and outdoor activities, and demographic questions. "Results from our study showed that most respondents had a positive view about both nature and allowing their children to play outdoors, which resulted in the child having for outdoor play," the researchers said. "Additionally, the more positive parents were about their children spending time in nature, the less time their children spent indoors."

When the scores on parental attitudes were tabulated, the researchers discovered relationships between time spent indoors (specifically playing video games or watching television) and health problems in children, while time spent outdoors in free play was inversely related to reports of health problems in children.

"While total time children spent outdoors was negatively correlated with reports of several health problems, total time spent indoors was positively correlated with the health problem score, nasal congestion, asthma attacks, trouble sleeping, diabetes, and frequent swollen glands," the study said. "Several health problems were significantly correlated with the different activities. Body pain or discomfort, repeated upset stomach, and feeling tired or having low energy all decreased if the child spent more time outdoors in free play."

The study recommends parents create more opportunities for children to participate in outdoor activities, citing gardening programs as one way to get kids outdoors and allow them to experience the healthy benefits of nature.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site:

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at


Original Article:

Growing Minds: The Relationship Between Parental Attitudes Toward Their Child's Outdoor Recreation and Their Child's Health
Danielle E. Hammond, Amy L. McFarland, Jayne M. Zajicek, and Tina M. Waliczek
HortTechnology 21:217–224. [Abstract][Full Text][PDF]

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