The Importance of Outdoor Play for Children

July 2016

Playing outdoors is an everyday part of life for most children. There are numerous benefits to outdoor play, including improved social skills, vitamin D exposure, better attention span, and, of course, increased physical activity.[1]

In a recent Danish study, children wore accelerometers and GPS tracking devices while participating in school recess.[2] They were classified into low, middle, and high physical activity groups, and the location where they spent most of their recess time was tracked with GPS. Time spent in the field, schoolyard, and school building were associated with high, middle, and low physical activity, respectively. Researchers found that the school building group was comprised of mostly girls who perceived a lack of attractive outdoor play facilities. The schoolyard group was also mostly girls who wanted to avoid the competitive field, where the boys dominated and played soccer. Studies like this can help school planners identify where different groups of children prefer to play so that equipment or games can be installed to help all children achieve higher levels of activity.

Another study measured children’s activity levels at multiple child care centers in the U.S.[3] Of those surveyed, 83% of child care centers reported that they scheduled ≥60 minutes of outdoor time per day and 90% of the centers scheduled 2 or more outdoor sessions per day. However, only 28% of children experienced ≥60 minutes of outdoor time at the centers. Only 40% of children had 2 or more sessions outdoors, and 32% had no times outdoors at all! Children that spent ≥60 minutes outdoors at the care centers had more MVPA time at the center and in a 24 period than children that did not. Indoor or outdoor playgrounds, TV time, weather, and staff training were not related to the children’s MVPA. This study demonstrates that outdoor time is related to an increase in physical activity for young children.

Outdoor time is essential for children’s activity levels and several other factors. Encouraging outdoor time in schools and child care centers should emphasized when scheduling programming for children.


Bell Peppers

Originating in South and Central America, bell peppers have been cultivated for thousands of years.[4] Bell peppers are typically green, yellow, orange, red, or purple and taste much sweeter than other types of peppers. They contain very little capsaicin, which is what makes peppers hot or spicy. The green and purple varieties can be slightly bitter, while the red, orange, and yellow varieties are sweeter.

Bell peppers contain vitamin C, vitamin E, and several different types of carotenoids. One cup of red bell pepper contains 157% of your daily value of vitamin C. Studies have shown that some of the antioxidants in bell peppers can degrade when cooked at higher temperatures, so it is recommended that they be eaten raw or cooked at lower temperatures for a short time in order to better preserve the nutrients. Bell peppers contain many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, so it is expected that they would be beneficial in combatting cancer. Although there have not yet been any large-scale human studies on cancer and bell peppers specifically, recent studies in animal models show promise in regards to gastric and esophageal cancers.

When selecting bell peppers, they should be firm with deep, vivid colors and no soft or discolored spots. Bell peppers are very sensitive to water loss when being stored, so do not cut the stem prior to storage, and it is recommended to store them with a damp cloth.


Stuffed Peppers

4 large bell peppers (any color)
1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (3 oz)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut thin slice from stem end of each bell pepper to remove top of pepper. Remove seeds and membranes; rinse peppers. If necessary, cut thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they stand up straight.
2. In 4-quart Dutch oven, add enough water to cover peppers. Heat to boiling; add peppers. Cook about 2 minutes; drain.
3. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in rice, salt, garlic and 1 cup of the tomato sauce; cook until hot.
4. Stuff peppers with beef mixture. Stand peppers upright in ungreased 8-inch square glass baking dish. Pour remaining tomato sauce over peppers.
5. Cover tightly with foil. Bake 10 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes longer or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle with cheese.

Recipe from http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/stuffed-peppers/63e29e18-903e-467c-aec5-fba4ce3a138f


Compression Clothing

Compression garments have increasingly become a popular option in sportswear, and for running clothes in particular. From shirts to socks, shorts, and sleeves, compression clothing can be seen at virtually every race. However, the actual benefits of these garments are still being researched.

A recent study evaluated the effects of compression socks during competition. Researchers found that there were minimal changes to endurance performance related to running economy and perception, but these were not significant.[5] Another study evaluated recovery instead of competition performance. Subjects performed a treadmill test to exhaustion 14 days before and 14 days after a marathon.[6] The compression sock group (CG) wore the socks for 48 hours immediately after the marathon, whereas the control group did not. For the CG group, the 2nd treadmill test improved by 2.6% and the placebo group decreased by 3.4%. This demonstrates a slight improvement in recovery when compression socks are used post-competition.

Compression shirts often claim to be heat dissipating, however their effect on running performance was compared against a normal cotton t-shirt. Subjects went through a treadmill time to exhaustion run with each shirt at different times.[7] When wearing the compression shirt, running performance times were lower and respiratory exchange ratios were higher compared to when wearing the t-shirt.

As these studies demonstrate, compression wear may be of benefit for recovery, but other types could hinder performance. Bold industry claims about compression clothing may not be substantiated by independent research, so keep this in mind next time you’re in the market for new exercise gear.


Health Matters is written by Lindsey Guthrie, MS, RD, LD/N and Tyler Guthrie, MS, CSCS.

References:

  1. 5 Health Benefits of Playing Outside. Care.com. https://www.care.com/a/5-health-benefits-of-playing-outside-131104115840
  2. Pawlowski CS, Andersen HB, Troelson J, Schipperjin J. Children’s Physical Activity Behavior during School Recess: A Pilot Study Using GPS, Accelerometer, Participant Observation, and Go-Along Interview. PloS one. 2016; 11(2).
  3. Study: Preschoolers need more outdoor time at child care centers. EurekAlert! http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/cchm-spn111115.php
  4. The George Mateljan Foundation. Bell Peppers. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=50
  5. Engel FA, Holmberg HC, Sperlich B. Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing? Sports Medicine. 2016: 1.
  6. Armstrong SA, Till E, Maloney SR, Harris GA. Compression socks and functional recovery following marathon running: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2015; 29(2) 528.
  7. Leoz-Abaurrea I, Santos-Concejero J, Grobler L, Engelbrecht L, Aguado-Jiminez R. Running performance while wearing a heat dissipating compression garment in male recreational runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2016.

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