Talking Dirty: The Health Benefits Of Playing Outside



The spring will be here, northerners! It’s the truth. As we dream of green grass and warm sun, the mercury dips to zero over here on Long Island. No matter! What matters is that when the weather is right, make sure your kids get dirty.


Yes, I know. In today’s super hygienic, germ-a-phibic world, the notion of messy kids and dirty clothes is a taboo most parents can’t even bear to think about.

The horror.

Well, it’s time to get over it. When you were a kid, you got dirty. It was a part of life. Apparently, it’s not just a part of life, it’s a pretty important part of life, too. In fact, research shows that children reap numerous health, social and personal benefits from spending time outside playing and that the green space and landscaping contributes to health, happiness and intellect.

Did you know…

1. Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. Knowing and experiencing nature makes us generally happier, healthier people.

2. Getting dirty is good for you! Mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors the effect on neurons that Prozac provides. People who spend time gardening and have direct contact with soil feel more relaxed and happier. This spring give your kids a pair of gardening gloves and have them work with you in your green spaces.

3. Living near living landscapes improves mental health. Research found that people moving to greener areas experiences an immediate improvement in mental health.

4. Children gain attention and working memory benefits when they are exposed to greenery. Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children.

5. Walking or running in nature, rather than a concrete-oriented, urban environment, resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination and negative affect, and produced cognitive benefits and increased working memory performance. Grass can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil thanks to the process called evapotranspiration.

6. Living landscapes help kids and pets be healthier. Playing outdoors increases fitness levels and builds healthy, active bodies.

7. Your lawn produces lots of oxygen– 50 square feet of lawn generates enough oxygen each day for a family of four – and reduces the code red effect since grass removes pollutants from the air we breathe.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) schooled me on the health benefits our outdoor living spaces provide and I thank them. I had no idea. I guess I just figured it was the right way to be. Now there’s proof!! Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for us old folks to get out there and get dirty ourselves. Suck it up people, it’s for your health!

For more tips on maintaining a living landscape, even in drought conditions, please visit

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