Youth Voices: The Importance of Outdoors

Honorable Mention
by  Indi M., 5th Grade, McLean, VA
All Kids Outdoors Scholastic-OAK Youth Essay Contest
Youth Voices Blog Series

The Importance of Outdoors

Children’s outdoor play is rapidly diminishing, we are focusing more on sedentary lifestyles. No one can deny our simple interest with electronics now in the modern era. The outdoors are the original foundation of this human race. It is quite likely we are instinctively drawn to it. But it’s hard to ignore walking by a park, hearing no laughter. And it’s hard to ignore the fact that people are building universal cities, and wiping out natural landscapes and nature preserves as they please. There is no one to blame, we are the ones who are eroding children’s outdoor playing time, and reconstructing natural landscapes to something that will increase our world pollution is not helping whatsoever. There are so many reasons why the outdoors are so important, but the three main reasons are: physical and mental health benefits, how it maintains the atmosphere, and how incredibly high-spirited it can make you and feel.

Original Artwork by Indi M.

First of all, outdoor play time for children will fundamentally improve mental and physical health. Research reveals that pushing our own limits can educate us in understanding ourselves. Children pushing their limites does not mean laying inside, watching TV. Outdoor play will not only deepen our understanding of ourselves, but also compel us to deepen our understanding of each other. Like a free change to physically socialize. Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing reported an essay on “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?” It states, “Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies.” This quotation explains the emotional and mental stress that will lift once you are met with outdoors. In “Let Kids be Kids,” Caileigh Flannigan says, “The absence of such play environments is not only influencing the quantity and quality of children’s play, but also affecting children’s health and well-being.” This illustrates the fact that health can improve from outdoor environments. Many people who work with young children know how fast bacteria and diseases can spread through this environment. We all know that when we are sick, we are not in a fit, healthy state. The outdoors, again, come to us at this stage; fresh air can reduce the spread of infection immensely. Johnson, Christie, and Wardle also state in “The Importance of Outdoor Play for Children,” “Outdoor play enables the infectious agents to spread out and be dissipated; it also enables children to get fresh air and exercise and be less constrained than they are in the classroom.” This supports that reducing time outdoors can help disease spread, and that a lot of fresh air can reduce that spread. My last reason why outdoors can provide health benefits, is from vitamin D. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium, you get vitamin D when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. To get direct sunlight, you must go outside. Given all the possible health benefits, outdoor play should be considered very important.

Secondly, without nature and outdoors, the atmosphere would fall apart. An EPA’s report on “Outdoor Air Quality” states, “Outdoor air — the air outside building, from ground level to several miles above the Earth’s surface — is a valuable resource for current and future generations because it provides essential gases to sustain life and it shields the Earth from harmful radiation.” This quotation explains how the atmosphere outdoors protects us from extreme radiation, and dangerous gases. Outdoors do not only provide health benefits for our bodies, but it protects us from things that just scream out danger. There is one slight problem with this, the outdoors shield us from unwanted sources, so why do we neglect fresh air. When we pollute, or just release smoke into the air, we are creating greenhouse gases. Those gases rise to the atmosphere and thicken it. The consequences to this is that the rays of light from the sun hit our earth, and almost all of them stay, while some should bounce off. Our atmosphere is protecting us from extreme heat and destructive gases, so why thicken it from pollutants? I walk around this town quite a bit, and I am never pleasured with complete fresh air. I smell car exhaust, I smell too many things that I shouldn’t smell. The outdoors, the atmosphere, fresh air, whatever you want to call it, protects us, why not protect it?

Finally, my last reason is about how good the outdoors makes you feel. In “6 Benefits of Getting Fresh Air,” by Rebecca Taylor a Kent-Teach Advisor, stated, “The more fresh air you get, the more oxygen you will breathe which will increase the amount of serotonin (the happy hormone) you inhale, consequently making you happier.” THis quote explains the research that has been done to prove how the outdoors can change your mood, to a much nicer one. Rebecca Taylor also stated, “You may have noticed after spending time outside, you come back indoors feeling brighter and perhaps ready to get back to work. More oxygen results in greater brain functioning, improving your concentration skills and providing you with more energy.” This quote explains how the outdoors doesn’t just make you feel nice and dandy, it can sharpen your senses with fresh air. Last year I went to New Zealand, known for its amazing landscapes and natural beauties, I was looking forward to it. We went on a hike as an activity through the woods one quiet morning. I wanted to be alone from my family, so I boosted up in front of them. Every beautiful natural sculpture fascinated me. Everything that looked absolutely unreal, I stopped to ponder. When the group finally caught up, I felt like I had been an adventure! Free, high-spirited, bright, I was all of those at the moment. Being outdoors that day, is a magical feeling and experience, that I will never forget.

Why does just one gasoline powered car matter to the pollution of Earth? Why not just relax indoors with fresh air conditioning? Playing video games makes so many people happy! I can answer both questions, and logically respond to that statement. One car matters to the Earth’s atmosphere because seventy-five percent of Earth’s pollution is from gasoline powered cars. And every single one of those cars, helps that to be true. Fresh air conditioning is not the same as fresh air. Sitting next to a noisy, dirty machine swivelling air at your face, is not the same as going out to watch and enjoy the sunset. And it doesn’t take a completely intact, sharp mind to see how. It is true that many people enjoy video games. I wouldn’t think that when you play a video game, you scientifically become happy. I would think though, that screens are addictive, and people feel encouraged to continue playing because of the competitiveness and urge to try and win something from playing. It is technologically proven, that oxygen results in better brain functioning. Just deep breath of air can feel good.

Children aren’t getting enough outdoor time, and we are not protecting our planet with the care that we should, considering how it helps us survive. It is insane to me how we treat Earth when it is so clear what it does for us. There is no question, the outdoors is what makes life possible, it’s what we came from, why end from it too? Not dirty cities, not relaxing indoors with TV on. Because on the side of that modern electricity, there is burning coal and fuel. We need the outdoors, and it needs us. Physical and mental health benefits, how it maintains the atmosphere, and how incredibly high-spirited it can make you feel. That is plenty of reasoning to say the outdoors are important.

Published by Jackie Ostfeld, OAK Chair

My name is Jackie Ostfeld. I am the co-founder and Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the Director of Sierra Club's Outdoors for All campaign. I am an advocate for connecting kids with nature. Views are my own.

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