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After You Read This, Go Outside: It’s ‘Take Me Outside Day’ - A Reminder For You And Your Kids To Un
October 25, 2012
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after-you-read-this-go-outside-its-take-me-outside-day-a-reminder-for-you-and-your-kids-to-unplug-and-enjoy-nature-thumb.jpg

Okay, after you read this here's what we'd like you to do.

Go outside. Or take your kids outside to play.

It's nothing personal. We're not breaking up or anything. We want you to come back.

It's just that today is 'Take Me Outside Day' - a day to raise awareness about the importance of unplugging for a while and getting outside.

The campaign was created by Colin Harris last year, after he spent nine months running more than 7600 kilometres from St. John's To Victoria.

That's the equivalent of 181 marathons.

Along the way, he went to 80 schools and spoke with nearly 20,000 students about the importance of spending more time outside rather than in front of a screen.

Colin's final day of the run was October 25th, so he picked that date for 'Take Me Outside Day.'

To mark the day, more than 150 schools have signed up across the country - pledging to spend 45 minutes outside, ideally during class time.

Here's a video Colin made to encourage people - both young and old - to get outside, be active and reconnect with nature.

For 'Take Me Outside Day', there are no rules as to how you spend those 45 minutes. And don't be afraid to stay out longer.

Last year, organizers say some schools spent a whole morning or afternoon outside doing activities.

Recently, George spoke with the folks at 'Take Me Outside' about how important it is for him to disconnect sometimes and find a piece of nature in Toronto. You can listen to that here.

'Take Me Outside' is a non-profit organization.

As part of its mission, it says "We believe in the power of outdoor experiential learning. We believe in the countless benefits that having a relationship with nature brings."

That's especially relevant nowadays, as study after study shows we spend too much time indoors in front of screens.

after-you-read-this-go-outside-its-take-me-outside-day-a-reminder-for-you-and-your-kids-to-unplug-and-enjoy-nature-feature4.jpg On average, kids in Canada spent six hours a day in front of a screen. And only 7 per cent of kids meet the guidelines for daily physical activity.

That means most children aren't getting enough exercise, or time outdoors.

In April of this year, a study came out in the journal 'Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.'

It found that nearly half (49%) of pre-school kids in the U.S. aren't taken outside for a walk or to play by their mom or dad on a daily basis.

And it say girls are less likely than boys to get that outdoor time.

A majority of the children, 80 per cent, spent time in daycare - an average of 28.5 hours a week there.

Kids were more likely to get outside every day if they had regular playmates and a parent who exercised at least four days a week.

The lack of outdoor time is troubling, the authors wrote, because physical activity outside promotes motor development and good mental health.

Not only that, but sunlight can boost vitamin D levels, which help form strong bones.

Outdoor play has even been linked to better eyesight, according to a 2011 study.

Another recent study published in the 'Journal of Environmental Psychology' found that going outside in nature makes you feel more alive and give you a mental boost.

"Nature is fuel for the soul," said Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. "Both physically and mentally, we're zippier when we step into the wild."

Ryan told Science Daily "Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don't just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses."

"We have a natural connection with living things," said Ryan. "Nature is something within which we flourish, so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments."

Other studies have even suggested that we're kinder and more gentle when we feel connected with nature.

Of course, if we don't get out and stay active, it can lead to health problems.

In Canada, approximately 26 per cent of children between the ages of two and 17 are overweight or obese.

In fact, the World Health Organization calls childhood obesity "one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century".

And it says overweight and obese children are more likely to develop health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at younger ages.

So, what to do?

after-you-read-this-go-outside-its-take-me-outside-day-a-reminder-for-you-and-your-kids-to-unplug-and-enjoy-nature-feature2.jpg Well earlier this year, ParticipACTION and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology teamed up to release guidelines.

They say children up to four years of age should get at least three hours of physical activity each day.

That includes climbing stairs, playing outside, walking or running. By the time they're five, children should get at least 60 minutes of "energetic play," such as hopping, skipping and bike riding.

Along with that, there should be strict limits on screen time - in other words, off the couch and away from computers, iPads, or other interactive gadgets.

According to the guidelines, children under two should not have any screen time. Children between 2 and 4 should spend no more than one hour each day in front of screens.

"There is not a shred of evidence that they found that supported [the idea that]screen time has any benefits at all for children," said Kelly Murumets president and CEO of ParticipACTION.

"Even sometimes if you think about screens being somewhat supportive of academic endeavours or intellectually stimulating, there's no evidence to support that."

The guidelines also suggest that parents not allow their kids to sit for more than an hour at a time, whether it's in a car seat, a stroller or in front of a screen.

Those guidelines should be "high, high, high on the priority list for every parent," said Murumets.

"It's truly our message to parents that this should not be difficult."

cbc.ca has put together an extensive piece on how sitting and screen time can affect your health. You can read that here.

To find out more or get involved with 'Take Me Outside', you can go to their Facebook page. You can post pictures and stories, and spread the word by sharing them with schools and friends across the country.

You can also send an e-mail to info@takemeoutside.ca and let them know where your school is, how many students and teachers are taking part, and some of the activities you're planning to do.

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