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Even More Reason to Get Kids Outside

September 30, 2021

Most of us would agree that outdoor activities can have a highly positive influence on a child’s life. Yet precisely why exposure to nature is so vital is harder to pin down. A recently released article in Pediatrics by Fyfe-Johnson et al sheds some light on this question (10.1542/peds.2020-049155).

In this comprehensive review, the authors define “nature” to include activities such as gardening, time spent in school or residential green space, and any kind of wilderness experience or a nature walk. Their findings demonstrate a positive association between nature exposure and increased rates of physical activity, reduction of BMI, as well as improved cognitive, mental, and behavioral health outcomes. Not surprisingly, the closer the greenspace was to a child’s home or school, the stronger the evidence of its benefit on a child’s overall health and wellbeing.

Yet like too many other resources, access to greenspace is far from equitable. Low-income neighborhoods and families of color are less likely to live in close proximity to a park or comparable outdoor space1,2. Schools in low-income neighborhoods are less likely to have school gardens3. The rapid rate of urbanization has made it financially and logistically difficult for many families to access the wilderness outside of the city and new infrastructure frequently results in a loss of greenspace, particularly in neighborhoods that are already socioeconomically disadvantaged.

As pediatricians, our advocacy efforts are numerous and on-going. But this article serves as a welcome reminder to devote some of our attention to help ensure equal access to greenspace for all of our patients and their families.


  1. Cousins, Joshua J. Justice in Nature-Based Solutions: Research and Pathways. Ecological Economics, Elsevier, 16 Oct. 2020.
  2. Estabrooks PA, Lee RE, Gyurcsik NC. Resources for physical activity participation: does availability and accessibility differ by neighborhood socioeconomic status? Ann Behav Med. 2003 Spring;25(2):100-4.
  3. Iris T. Stewart, Elizabeth K. Purner, Patricia D. Guzmán. Socioeconomic Disparities in the Provision of School Gardens in Santa Clara County, California. Child Youth Environ. 2013;23(2):127.

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