Playing in ‘green spaces’ reduces ADHD symptoms

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A new study published in the journal of Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing has found that kids with ADHD who spend more time playing in nature areas or so called ‘green spaces’ where there is grass and trees have fewer symptoms than those who spend more time indoors or in built up areas.

Previous research has already found that even a little bit of exposure to green spaces can help calm the mind and improve concentration in people without ADHD so this inspired researchers from the University of Illinois, Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances (Ming) Kuo to look at whether the same held true for kids with ADHD.

They analyzed data from a 2004 National Internet Based Survey of parents of children who had been diagnosed with ADHD and did indeed find a link between playing in greener spaces and milder ADHD symptoms.

Exposure to nature

In this new study, they also looked to see if it was the same when children played in the same green space setting regularly.

“Before the current study, we were confident that acute exposures to nature – sort of one-time doses – have short-term impacts on ADHD symptoms,” Kuo said.

“The question is, if you’re getting chronic exposure, but it’s the same old stuff because it’s in your backyard or it’s the playground at your school, then does that help?”

To find out

They looked at other data in the 2004 survey such as the parents descriptions of their child’s play areas and matched this with the severity of ADHD symptoms; they also took into account age, sex, and socio-economic status.

“On the whole, the green settings were related to milder overall symptoms than either the ‘built outdoors’ or ‘indoors’ settings,” Taylor said. This was true regardless of sex or household income.

Open spaces reduced hyperactivity

They also found that children who were more hyperactive benefited from playing in open spaces such as a large lawn or a football field rather than in a more enclosed green space with lots of trees or in a built up outdoor play setting or playing indoors.

The researchers noted

The findings don’t by themselves prove that routine playtime in green space reduces the symptom of ADHD said Kuo, but taking into consideration other studies showing a cause and effect relationship between exposure to nature and improved concentration and impulse control, “it is reasonably safe to guess that that’s true here as well”..

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