Not that the backpacking parent really needs another incentive to hit the hills with the small ones in tow, but FYI, all those days of hiking and camping may amount to more than great exercise and family fun. According to a new study, the time that your kids spend outdoors may be vital to their health.
The study, released today online in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that at least one in five U.S. children aged 1 through 11 suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. According to the study and lead author Jonathan Mansbach, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and the Children’s Hospital in Boston, vitamin D deficiencies put children at risk for a variety of health problems, including weak bones, infections, diabetes, and even some types of cancers. Earlier research also revealed a link between low vitamin D levels in kids and high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
The solution: Well, you can attempt to force feed your kids a lot of oily fish, which is very high in D (a known favorite among those finicky eaters). Or, you can push them to drink a liter of fortified milk a day, which will give them the recommended daily 400 IUs of vitamin D (good luck there, too). A multi-vitamin, however, is recommended by a lot of docs and seems like a good idea. But the best and seemingly easy advice to boost vitamin D levels is simply to spend more time outdoors. Vitamin D from the sun is absorbed naturally into the body through the skin. Do, however, remember to apply sunscreen, especially at high altitudes.
The great outdoors: As far as medicine goes, I’d wager to say that most kids would agree that it certainly beats a meal of sardines followed by a jug of milk. Happy hiking.
For some handy tips to encourage the little outdoor enthusiasts in the kids in your lives as well as the best cities to raise a child outdoors, check out these BACKPACKER articles: