A #SuperJuly blog to celebrate Park and Recreation Month in #FairfaxParks
Being a super hero is typically a harrowing experience. If you’re not being exposed to some toxic chemical, you’re being traumatized by bad guys or flung out of your own galaxy to deal with backward Earthlings. Your superpowers may be helpful destroying aliens, outracing locomotives or challenging the newest mutant national nemesis, but truly, how often have you had to personally deal with these issues? Leaping a tall building would be fun until the Federal Aviation Administration curtails your leaps with new regulations passed faster than a speeding bullet.
A useful superpower would be beneficial on a daily basis, not just when a rogue asteroid is zooming towards Fairfax County. Better still, a superpower would enhance your ability to deal with mundane, certain life challenges such as bumping your head, losing a wallet, failing a test, or missing a two-foot putt. Given a choice, you might wish for a superpower that lifts your spirit, such as robust health, less stress, or success in academics, work, and two-foot putts. Maybe you would long for something as simple as having more friends and fun.
Imagine, if you could obtain those powers, not through a science experiment gone awry but by doing something easy at no cost — how great would that be? Well, the great thing is, you can do that. The superpowers of resilience, robust health, razor focus and bonhomie are there for the taking, just outside your front door – literally.
Most children and adults are disconnected from nature, particularly unstructured outdoor play experiences. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Federation cite University of Michigan studies that say children average four to seven minutes a week in unstructured outdoor play activities and seven hours a day plugged into electronic media.
Outdoors is Super
The Children & Nature Network compiles research studies, many with assistance from the American Association of Pediatrics, that indicate myriad benefits from spending time in nature. Pediatrician and founder of the Whole Child Center Dr. Laurence Rosen, writing for The New Nature Movement, says seven reasons to get your kids outside are to:
- Encourage exercise
- Reduce anxiety
- Enhance focus
- Improve intelligence
- Bolster a sense of community
- Deepen family connections
- Increase interest in environmental stewardship.
The Natural Teachers Network adds improved creativity, collaboration and communication abilities to that list. If you compare this list with the five skills that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) deems necessary for success in the FCPS Portrait of a Graduate, you’ll discover something. The lists match!
Students are not the only ones who benefit from being outdoors. Any one at any age gains from being outdoors. Nature provides a tapestry of sensory stimulators from fresh air, to vitamin D from the sun, to the decrease in tension. A connection to nature does a body good. Medical News Today cites an article in the journal Neuroscience as showing the benefits of getting dirty or inhaling natural serotonins in soil challenge the logic of germophobes always reaching for hand sanitizer. Feeling low? Make a mud pie!
From preschoolers to seniors and in-between, outside is the best side for physical, social and mental health. A super power that boosts anyone at any age to live a longer, healthier, more successful life is priceless. And this power is free. Just go outside. Nature is waiting to play.
Author Suzanne Holland is the Visitor Services Manager at Hidden Oaks Nature Center.