What is it about trees, bodies of water and greenspace that captivate us? Many studies have shown that exposure to nature helps reduce stress and boosts happiness.

A review of nearly 300 studies shows that living or going to school close to nature is strongly associated with an improved physical and mental health status of kids. The researchers from Washington State University say that the benefits of exposure to nature may be more pronounced for kids from historically marginalized communities.

“Access to nature – and the benefits that come with it – are a necessity, not a nicety," says Dr. Amber Fyfe-Johnson, the lead author of the study. "Unfortunately, not all kids are able to have regular nature contact. This is due partly to urbanization, increased screen time and more sedentary indoor lifestyles.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends outdoor playtime, but the researchers note that not all outdoor space is equal -- a parking lot is not a meadow and urban playground is not a garden.

They say additional studies with strong evidence about the benefits of nature are needed to turn recommendations into public policy promoting equitable nature contact for kids where they live, learn and play. That prior research suggests greenspace may greatly help disadvantaged populations by counteracting some of the toxic effects of poverty.

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This research is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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