Childhood obesity affects 17% or 12.5 million of America's children, contributing to the rise in children's health disparities. Type 2 diabetes, asthma, vitamin D deficiency, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have also increased over the past few decades. A shift toward a sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to the decline in children's health. Children spend more time indoors using electronic media and less time engaged in outdoor unstructured play. This article reviews the current evidence of the mental and physical health benefits associated with unstructured, outdoor activities and time spent in a natural environment such as a park or other recreational area. Pediatric health care providers should recommend outdoor activities for children and refer families to safe and easily accessible outdoor areas. Pediatric health care providers can incorporate this simple, lifestyle-based intervention into anticipatory guidance.
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