Friday, September 26, 2008

Children Benefit from Nature Excursions

One of the objectives of our Newman Park Neighborhood Association is to be concerned about our beautiful desert environment. In fact, as we interact with that environment there may be some real health benefits. The following research summary came to me from a listserv of Tree, an organization that seeks to empower people to enable cities to promote urban and community forests:

Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park.
Faber Taylor, A. and Kuo, F.E.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Objective: In the general population, attention is reliably enhanced after exposure to certain physical environments, particularly natural environments. This study examined the impacts of environments on attention in children with ADHD.
Method: In this within subjects design, each participant experienced each of three treatments (environments) in single blind controlled trials. 17 children 7-12 years old professionally diagnosed with ADHD experienced each of three environments - a
city park and two other well-kept urban settings - via individually guided 20-minute walks. Environments were experienced one week apart, with randomized assignment to treatment order. After each walk, concentration was measured using Digit Span Backwards.

Results: Children with ADHD concentrated better after the walk in the park than after the downtown walk (p=.0229) or the neighborhood walk (p= .0072). Effect sizes were substantial (Cohen's d=.52 and .77, respectively), and comparable to those reported for recent formulations of methylphenidate.

Conclusion: 20 minutes in a park setting was sufficient to elevate attention performance relative to the same amount of time in other settings. These findings indicate that environments can enhance attention not only in the general population but in ADHD populations as well. "Doses of nature" might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool in the toolkit for managing ADHD symptoms.

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