Embrace the Sunshine: Health Benefits of Swapping Screen Time for Family Time

By Teresa Alasio

The lazy days of summer beckon, and with them comes the urge to unwind with electronics. But before you plug in, consider the power of sunshine! Studies show swapping screens for outdoor adventures can significantly improve your family’s well-being.

Boosting Mood and
Mental Health

Just 20 minutes in a park can do wonders. A Journal of Environmental Psychology study found it increased energy and reduced stress in participants. Natural light also boosts serotonin, a happiness hormone. This is especially crucial for children, as a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study linked excessive screen time (over 2 hours daily) to depression, anxiety, and attention problems.

Enhancing Physical Fitness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity daily for children. Ditch the screens and head outside! Biking, swimming, hiking, or playing tag are all fantastic ways to meet this goal. In contrast, a sedentary lifestyle linked to screen time is a major contributor to the global childhood obesity crisis highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Promoting Better Sleep

Morning sunlight regulates your body’s internal clock, leading to better sleep. The Sleep Foundation emphasizes the importance of outdoor play for children’s nighttime sleep. However, screen time before bed disrupts sleep. The blue light emitted by devices suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone. By reducing screen time and increasing outdoor activities, families can ensure everyone gets a restful night.

Family Bonds

Nature provides the perfect backdrop for creating lasting memories. Camping trips, picnics in the park, or simply playing games in the backyard foster communication and connection. The National Wildlife Federation reports that families who spend time outdoors together feel more bonded and satisfied with their relationships.

Practical Tips for Families

• Plan Outdoor Adventures: Schedule regular park visits, beach trips, or nature hikes. Pack picnics, plan bike rides, or organize scavenger hunts to keep everyone engaged.

• Create Screen-Free Zones: Designate areas in your home, like the dining room and bedrooms, as “no-screen” zones to encourage face-to-face interaction and motivate movement.

• Lead by Example: Parents set the tone! Limit your own screen time and prioritize outdoor activities with your family.

• Join the Community: Explore local offerings like sports leagues, nature walks, or outdoor fitness classes.

This summer, embrace the sunshine! By reducing screen time and venturing outdoors, you’ll reap the rewards of improved mood, physical fitness, mental well-being, and stronger family bonds. Put down the devices, step outside, and soak up the season’s joy. Your body and mind will thank you for it!

Teresa Alasio MD is the Medical Director and Owner of Intentional Self Aesthetics in New Canaan. She attended Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. It was at Mount Sinai where she also did her residency and served as Chief Resident in her final year of training.

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