When we were kids, playing outside wasn’t much of an option. Our moms had things to do, y’all, and it sure as heck didn’t include entertaining us 24/7 or stepping over us while she was trying to clean.
In fact, according to recent findings reported in Science Advances, letting your kids play outside i natural environments for just one month can lead to a better immune system.
The researchers involved studied 75 children between the ages of 3 and 5, watching to see how environmental changes altered their skin and gut microbiota. They also tracked immune markers in their blood.
What constitutes a natural environment?
Not gravel or concrete, or plastic playthings, but spaces with trees, earth, and grasses.
The difference was dramatic. The microbiota of the kids with the new, natural outdoor spaces had shifted completely, and featured a higher ratio of the anti-inflammatory proteins to pro-inflammatory proteins in their blood, indicating their immune system was improving.
Dr. Aki Sinkkonen, one of the study authors, elaborated 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.
If you’re wondering why the microbiota of these kids was so important, and so telling, it’s because they have a huge impact on our wider health. The trillion of microorganisms that live on and inside us can influence our risks of certain diseases, food cravings, mental health, and sometimes even our personalities.
We’re still learning, every day, the myriad ways those tiny bigs work with our own human cells on a daily basis.
What this study seems to prove is that our surroundings and lifestyles can play a huge role in the richness and diversity of bacteria in our bodies, and that’s not typically a bad thing.
So, be like your parents (or grandparents) and push your littles out to play. Go camping, take hikes, go skiing or swim in a lake – the more natural environments you can expose them (and yourself!) to, the better off everyone will be in the long run!