Live Well

Stephanie HowesBy Stephanie Howes, Interim associate dean, Faculty of Health


If the screensaver on your computer desktop is the closest you’ve come to a view of the outdoors recently, slap on some sunscreen and change that.

Nature, you see, is life’s little multivitamin and it’s a great defence against obesity, stress, depression and other too common ailments.

In his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation to disturbing childhood trends like obesity, attention disorders and depression.

Louv suggests that exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical, social and emotional health of children and adults. Louv isn’t alone: Psychiatrists have long believed in the healing effects of garden settings, and some penitentiaries and psychiatric hospitals use nature and wilderness programs to treat inmates and patients.

Closer to home, Dr. David Suzuki, in a webcast at Kwantlen’s Surrey campus in April, also referred to the health benefits of the outdoors and noted that the average North American child spends as little as 30 minutes a day outside playing. At the same time, countless studies indicate that time outdoors leads to healthier, happier, more focused, more creative and more generous children.

Consider all the time we spend in our cars, on the computer, on one mobile device or another and in front of the television, and contrast that with the time we spend in nature. If you don’t like the ratio, go outside. No time because of your work? How about holding a “walking meeting?” Take your lunch outside. Park farther away from your office. Take the bus to work and get off one stop earlier so you have to walk.

Maybe you can even take some photos and personalize the screensaver on your computer desktop.