The Dirt On Dirt
America’s obesity epidemic has health officials clamoring to get kids off the couch and onto the playground, but surprisingly it’s not just weight that’s at stake when we live a “bubble-boy” lifestyle at home.
In an effort not to expose kids to germs, we’re actually not exposing them to enough germs–impairing their immune systems, fostering allergies, and causing asthma and other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type-one diabetes during adulthood. Kids need to go outside so they can get dirty and come in contact with all the healthy microbes and germs that will ultimately prevent illness.
The benefits of diving into a mud puddle go way past our precious immune systems. Seattle Children’s Dr. Pooja Tandon writes, “Research shows that outdoor time is important for children’s physical activity and also beneficial for their motor skills, learning, vitamin D levels, vision, and mental health.”
In fact, just making contact with dirt increases happiness. Studies show that Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium found in soil, triggers a release of serotonin that uplifts moods and decreases anxiety. Playing in dirt is also known to alleviate symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. According to a recent study, the 4.4 million children in America struggling with ADHD would benefit from everyday play in green, open spaces.
So remember: there is such a thing as being too clean. Especially for children, a mud puddle can be the best medicine.
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By Kara Foran