Too much time inside: Are your kids nature deficient?

Studies show children are spending more time indoors and less time in nature. It's a phenomenon that some experts have dubbed nature-deficit disorder.

Studies show children are spending more time indoors and less time in nature. It’s a phenomenon some experts have dubbed nature-deficit disorder.

Kids playing outside may seem like a normal occurrence. But research shows it’s happening much less often.

One recent survey found half of all kids spend less than an hour outdoors daily, which is less time than prison inmates do! In fact, inmates at maximum-security prisons in the U.S. are guaranteed at least two hours outdoors each day.

This lack of outdoor time is denying kids vital time in nature, causing them to become nature deficient.

“Being in nature helps to decrease cortisol levels, it decreases stress levels and helps to improve overall health,” said Dr. Laurie Bostick Cammon, a pediatrician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “There’s a relationship between how many trees are in your neighborhood and how healthy you are.”

Studies also show more time spent outdoors can lessen symptoms of behavioral disorders in kids.

So how can you coax your kid into going outside? Visit local parks and playgrounds as often as you can.

Limit screentime so kids will look to other activities.

Invest in outdoor items, like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, or balls to encourage play.

Also, take family time outdoors. Go for a short walk or bike ride every evening.

“We can’t make big changes, but we can start making small changes,” Cammon said.

A 2013 study found that even viewing nature scenes can reduce stress and regulate heart rates.