California is rich in state parks. Lakes, mountains, beaches, forests, historical features, culture, and camping – there’s a park for everyone, and all tastes can be accommodated within the gorgeous, soaring scenery. Visiting a state park, however, may be particularly beneficial if you want to get your children into a fit and healthy way of life. From gaining essential nutrients to staving off illnesses like depression and attention-deficit disorders, research is consistently proving that getting them out into nature is one of the absolute best things you can do for your kids. Here is why:
Get Some Vitamin D
Going outside is massively beneficial from a nutritional point of view. This may seem like an odd claim to make, as the act of simply strolling through a state park does not involve an awful lot of eating. The simple fact is, however, that the body cannot gain enough of Vitamin D – a vitamin essential for absorbing calcium and growing healthy bones – through food alone. It is made naturally by the skin when bare flesh is exposed to sunlight. You don’t need to fry your skin in the sun to gain enough Vitamin D. It is produced very quickly – so do be careful not to let your children burn! So important is Vitamin D that people living in northern climes where it is hard to get sunshine on the skin are strongly advised to take supplements like Walgreen’s “Nature Made” Vitamin D capsules. This is important, as studies in London have found that low levels of Vitamin D lead to “risk of depression in mid-adulthood” and panic disorders. Lack of vitamin D in children has been linked not only to mood disorders like depression, but to skeletal diseases like rickets caused by insufficient calcium absorption. Of course, if you want your children to get all the benefits of vitamin D then you need to make sure that they’re getting plenty of calcium as well. Companies like Yoplait make yogurts which are stuffed full of both calcium and vitamin D – a winning combination given that, as Yoplait point out, “Studies show that calcium absorption improves when taken along with vitamin D”.
Encourage A Healthy Lifestyle
Vitamin D is not only beneficial from a nutritional point of view, however. It – and the healthy outdoor lifestyle with which it is associated – have been linked to general participation in healthy behaviors. Studies have found that people with low levels of Vitamin D are not only susceptible to fatal illnesses like cancer and heart disease, but are also likely to lead highly unhealthy lifestyles. The New York Times reports that “blood levels of Vitamin D are a good barometer of overall health”, and also makes the link between low levels of Vitamin D and “behaviors that contribute to poor health, like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a diet heavy in processed and unhealthful foods”. As Kwikmed point out, “obesity levels are on the increase, and this is due to a lack of exercise combined with a bad diet”, so making sure that your children understand about healthy behaviors is absolutely vital if they are not to fall pretty to these increasingly prevalent lifestyle factors. Introducing your children to healthy lifestyle choices that they actually enjoy, such as walking in California’s state parks will therefore not only ensure that they soak up plenty of life-giving Vitamin D, it may also ensure that they develop an appreciation for the need to make healthy choices and care for their bodies. Children who understand that an alternative, healthier lifestyle exists are much more likely to make healthy nutritional choices as they grow older, and treat their bodies with the care that they deserve.
Learn To Walk
Something as simple as taking your children for a walk through California’s beautiful state parks could have untold benefits for their future health and mentalities. Obviously, walking is excellent exercise. Harvard Medical School note that “walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, vascular stiffness and inflammation” as well as promoting strong bone growth and a healthy musculature. However, studies have also shown that walking through a natural environment can have fantastic effects upon the mind as well as the body. Meredith Melnick, writing for Time magazine, states that walking can induce a semi-meditative state highly conducive to positive mental health – “walking is a good opportunity to process the day and let my mind wander without the oppression of the endless to-do list that awaits me at home”. While this effect can be gained through walking in an urban environment, walking through a state park enhances it a hundredfold. In his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, author Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” – a blanket phrase covering a multitude of childhood problems (such as obesity, depression, and attention disorders). He presents compelling evidence that such disorders are caused (indirectly) through a lack of exposure to and engagement with the natural environment. In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, he relates his view that a reconnection with nature could improve childhood immensely and pave the way for a happy and productive adulthood. “I’ve lost count of the number of teachers and youth leaders who have told me how different kids become when you get them out into nature. Trouble-makers become leaders. Nature is their Ritalin.”
Get Out, Get Active, Get Healthy
So, if you want your children to become fit, healthy adults with a firm appreciation of the benefits of nature, good mental health, and a willingness to make healthy lifestyle choices, it seems that a day out in one of California’s beautiful state parks may be just the thing!
CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON