Here at Dalton Wise, we know just how important spending time in green spaces is for our mental health. A recent study in Finland has shown that it is also great for our physical health! During a study, it was found that the immune systems of children between three and five improved when forest undergrowth, lawns, and planter boxes were added outside daycare centres.
This confirms the results of numerous other study which suggest that children living in rural areas and have more contact with nature have a lower risk of catching an illness resulting from disorders in the immune system. They are also less likely to develop coeliac disease, allergies, atopy and diabetes.
The Finnish study shows that regular contact with nature-like elements five times a week diversified the body’s microbes, offering protection against diseases transmitted through the immune system in daycare children.
So what happened in the study?
Published in Science Advances, the experience measured the effects when children planted and tended to crops in planter boxes, played on laws that were previously paved, tiled or gravelled areas at daycare centres. 75 children were monitored for a month at 10 daycare centres. Changes in microbes in children who attended daycare with he added nature areas, were compared with children who attended daycare with no green areas, or daycare with no green areas, but regular field trips.
The study found that playing in the nature areas over a one month period increased microbial diversity in the children’s skin. They also found changes in blood counts. A rise in gammaproteobacteria, which boosts the skin’s immune defence, higher levels of the multifunctional TGF-β1-cytokine in the blood, and reduced levels of interleukin-17A, which is connected to immune-transmitted diseases. Research scientist, Aki Sinkkonen, said: “This is the first in which these changes offering protection against diseases have been found when adding diversified aspects of nature to an urban environment”.
The study also found that intestinal microbiota of children who were in the ‘greenery group’ was similar to those of children visiting the forest every day. Based on this experiment, and previous comparative studies, it is suggested that children’s motor skills and ability to concentrate also improve when spending more time in nature. When we are in contact with nature, our bodies are exposed to a broad range of microbes, which activate different parts of our defensive system.
Such an interesting study! Be sure to incorporate green spaces and time spent in nature into your lifestyle.