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Eight reasons why it’s good to play in nature

12 October 2021

Childrens Forest balance amongst the trees

It’s always good fun to get out in the bush, but did you know it’s actually good for you? Seriously good for you! Science is putting facts and figures behind what a lot of us know in our hearts – we feel better when we spend time in nature.

So whether its getting the kids out exploring Pia's Place or the Children's Forest, or taking time to explore our bush trails, we have eight amazing reasons why you should get outside and spend some time playing in nature!

1. Green space reduces stress

A study in Finland found that after spending time in a park or forest, people felt more positive emotions and less negative emotions. Just 15 to 45 minutes in a park was found to be enough to improve mood, vitality and creativity and to leave people feeling restored. Just think how good you will feel after a day at Whiteman Park!

2. Exercise gets your heart pumping

Exercise is the obvious benefit from being outside. Just thirty minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) on five days of the week is enough to improve cardiovascular health. Being out in nature while you exercise has all sorts of other advantages too. But while we are talking about exercise, Whiteman Park has an extensive network of shared use paths and playgrounds you can explore. And you don't just have to get around on foot - hire a kart from Pedal Play for some pedal-powered fun, or bring your bike next time you visit.

3. Playing in nature is good for kids’ motor skills

Studies in Norway and Sweden found that kids who played among trees, rocks and in natural play areas had better balance and fitness than kids that played for the same amount of time in flat outdoor playgrounds. There’s just something about clambering over rocks and climbing trees!

Even walking on uneven surfaces makes us think in different ways. Some environmental educators suggest walking barefoot in nature to get the full sensory experience. We suggest you take a cautious approach to taking shoes off though – the ground here can get very hot in summer and there is always the risk of snakes and other bitey critters. But there is something about feeling soft grass underfoot and sand between your toes. Think about it: what kid can resist walking barefoot through a muddy puddle? As a matter of fact, that’s not a bad thing for an adult to do either! When did you last climb a tree?

Pia's Place is an all-abilities playspace designed for use by all ages AND all abilities. Go on, have a go next time you're here!

Balancing in Pia's Place

4. Kids behave better outside

We expect our kids to sit still for so much of the time. We wonder why they get bored and restless. Space to run and play enables kids to let off steam. All kids benefit from having space to move and make noise. For kids with mental health issues, such as ADHD, outside play can be especially beneficial. One American study found playing outside in nature reduced ADHD symptoms threefold, compared to playing inside.

Running through the Children's Forest

5. Good for your eyes

Nature is full of complex patterns. The human-guilt world is full of straight lines and geometric shapes. Our brains and eyes are hardwired to the complex patterns of nature. This is why we find it soothing to look at a stream trickling by or ocean waves rolling onto the beach or the breeze wafting the leaves of a tree. These things soothe our minds but they also soothe our eyes. Getting out and looking at nature can help reduce the onset of short-sightedness, which is increasingly common as more and more of us spend more and more time staring at screens.

Some research has shown that looking at pictures of nature can help to sooth us, but the full effect is best if you are immersed in nature, not just looking at a picture of it. So get out there and have a look around!

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Fauna Pink and grey galah pair WEB
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6. Listen to the quiet

We live in a noisy world. 😐
Noise increases stress hormones in our bodies. 🙁
Spending time being quiet in nature is restorative. 😊

Many people find the sounds of nature – particularly birdsong and trickling water – to be especially restorative. A study in Britain found that students were more attentive if they spent time listening to birdsong. Did you know that over 100 different species of birds either live in or visit Whiteman Park?

7. Boost your immunity

Being in nature has been shown to boost your immunity. Japanese researchers found that hiking in nature for a couple of hours a day for three days boosted a group of businessmen’s ‘natural killer immune cells’ by 40 per cent! They’re not sure exactly what was going on, but think it may have something to do with volatile substances emitted by the trees in the area where the group walked. Those nice tree smells your nose detects when you are out in nature may be doing you more good than you realised.

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8. Sunlight enables your body to make vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential to keep bones and muscles strong and healthy. Some foods contain small amounts of vitamin D but most of our vitamin D is made by our bodies. The trick is, our skin needs to be exposed to sunlight for our bodies to make vitamin D. Of course, too much exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. The trick is in finding a balance. The Cancer Council says most people will get adequate vitamin D through regular incidental exposure to the sun. In late autumn and winter is some southern parts of Australia (when UV index is below 3), they recommend spending time outdoors in the middle of the day with some skin uncovered. Physical activity also helps boost vitamin D. That sounds like a prescription for a mid-winter walk in Whiteman Park! Or a summer picnic under a tree while wearing hat and sunscreen!

If you needed a reason to come and enjoy a day in Whiteman Park, we have eight! So, what are you waiting for? We think Whiteman Park is the perfect place for you and your kids to get some nature time. There’s plenty to do, so pack that picnic and come on out!

Lastly, if you would like to find out more about the benefits of spending time in nature, a couple of good books are Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv and The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. But don’t just read about it, get out there and enjoy it as well!