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Children Benefit from Playing Outdoors with Friends

Update Date: May 13, 2014 01:51 PM EDT

Before video games, computers, tablets and smartphones entered into children's daily lives, playing outdoors, especially during warmer days, was the norm for most families. In modern day society, however, afterschool programs have to be created to encourage children to play outdoors more often. In a new study, researchers reported that children who spent time outside with friends were more likely to be more physically active, which is beneficial for overall health.

For this study, the team from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom examined the relationship between playing outdoors and physical activity levels as a part of the Personal and Environmental Associations with Children's Health (PEACH) project. The researchers used accelerometers to assess the intensity of the activity and GPS devices to monitor when the children were outside. The children were instructed to keep a diary to record who they spent time with throughout the day. The sample was made up of 427 children aged 10 and 11.

The researchers found that children who spent more time outdoors were more likely to be physically active in comparison to children who spent more time indoors. The team calculated that for every hour spent outside playing with friends, the children ended up performing an additional 17 minutes of physical activity. For every hour that children spent playing indoors with friends, their physical activity levels only increased by an extra six minutes.

"We found that children spend most of their after-school time indoors and little time outdoors playing with other children, which makes the biggest contribution to the amount of physical activity they get," Dr. Angela Page, from Bristol University's Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, said reported by Medical Xpress. "Building stronger neighborhood community links between parents and children could restore the social norm of children playing outdoors and relieve some concerns parents may have about safety."

The study, "Who children spend time with after school: associations with objectively recorded indoor and outdoor physical activity," was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

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