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For both children and adults, a thick, green lawn is an appealing place to play that not only acts as a safe play surface, but can also support other activities that provide crucial health benefits. Such a lawn is especially appealing if you and your family have been stuck inside and unable to spend much time out in the wider world—think of it as your own personal, feel-better oasis.
Child obesity is a serious issue in America, especially as kids spend more and more time indoors, sitting with their computers, video games, or TV instead of playing outside. Having a lawn (or nearby outdoor park) as a place to play can make a big difference. A recent study showed that inner-city children living in neighborhoods with more green space gained 13 percent less weight over a 2-year period than those living amid more concrete and few trees.
When announcing a national physical-fitness program in recent years, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary at the time said, "Playing with your kids in the back yard for an hour each day can help the whole family stay healthy." From hide-and-seek to touch football, the games you play in the yard with your children can provide good exercise for you as well for the kids—not to mention a wonderful outlet for pent-up energy. Taking care of your lawn can give you a pretty decent workout, too.
For backyard games, nothing beats thick, soft grass for comfort and safety—it's a much better play surface than dirt or pavement for children. Even athletes prefer natural grass to artificial turf because the grass is better at absorbing physical impact, helping to reduce injuries. And on a hot summer day, air temperatures can be up to 30° F cooler above grass than above-paved areas. That can make quite a difference!
Along with supporting activities providing physical health benefits, grass also has a calming effect on children struggling with attention deficit disorder symptoms. Researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that green play settings have cognitive benefits for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The greener a child's play area, the less severe were his or her ADHD symptoms. Even if the activity was simply reading in a green setting, the symptoms improved.*
* Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., & Sullivan, W.C. (2001). "Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings." Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54-77.
Research has linked grass and green space to a longer life for seniors, faster recovery from injury, lower body mass, and less stress. In other words, the natural green of a lawn (or other green space) provides a comfortable, pleasant environment that can give your and your family's quality of life a big boost—and that's good news worth hearing.