City children could become healthier if they spend more time playing outside, research says.
According to Finnish scientists, natural forest floors are capable of boosting children’s immune system within a month, IFL Science reports. The reason – the natural floors expose the kids to a greater variety of skin and gut bacteria. So, playing in the dirt might turn out to be quite beneficial for our boys and girls.
Recently, researchers at the University of Helsinki conducted a study on the effects of natural environment on children’s health. The scientists collaborated with ten daycare centers in two Finnish cities – Lahti and Tampere. They examined the way a change in the kids’ playing environment altered their skin and gut microbiota as well as the immune markers in their blood.
What happens when the gravel playgrounds turn into ‘forest floors’?
To test their theory, the experts gave four of the daycare centers a revamp. They transformed the usual gravel playgrounds into a field of forest floor, soil, and grasses. Three of the other centers kept their old playground while the remaining three already had a similar green setting.
In only a month, the researchers discovered there was a dramatic difference.
The eco change significantly boosted the children’s immune system, which reflected in them developing a higher ratio of the anti-inflammatory proteins to pro-inflammatory proteins in their blood. Aki Sinkkonen, study author and a research scientist, said in a statement:
“We were surprised that the findings were so clear even though we did not get as many participants as we had hoped.”
While the Finnish researchers only focused on how natural bacteria influences the body, it can also affect our mental health and even our personality.
Changing our urban environment into a more nature-related one can significantly improve our lives. Not only can it sustain our physical health, but it can also encourage us to be more mindful and to take better care of our mental wellness. Sinkkonen advises:
“It would be best if children could play in puddles and everyone could dig organic soil. We could take our children out to nature five times a week to have an impact on microbes.”
This novel playground study is a clear example of how a small change in our environment can lead to amazing improvements in our health and our everyday life.