What are the psychological, cognitive and physical health benefits of outdoor education

Outdoor education has a lot to add to a classroom environment. In fact, there are many wonderful benefits to enabling children to learn outdoors that are really only found outside of traditional learning environments. And this isn’t just theory either, as there are studies to provide how this works. The advantages of outdoor education are many, including psychological, cognitive and physical.

The benefits of outdoor education

  • Being outside in nature helps to reduce sedentary behaviour and get children moving more and running around. It also takes them away from screens and devices, providing a very valuable learning time away from technology. There is also research that has found that contact with nature reduces blood pressure and the risks associated with myopia so there are a whole range of additional health benefits that are accessible through an outdoor education.
  • Research has found that learning while in contact with nature helps to reduce anxiety in children and increase overall wellbeing. It can even work to help boost confidence and self-esteem, which are vital for children to develop at an early age. Plus, there are lots of social benefits to outdoor education, including developing social relationships with other students and providing a wealth of opportunities for collaboration and working together. There can also be a positive impact on equality and inclusion, as the outdoors offers equal opportunities for everyone to get involved.
  • One of the many ways in which outdoor education benefits children is when it comes to how children learn – it increases the ability that students have to transfer what they learn to everyday situations. Not only that but contact with nature also improves how children retain learning and even a short period of contact with nature can have a long-term positive impact on cognitive performance.

The research says

There has been a wealth of research into the overall benefits of outdoor education spanning a whole range of different areas – these include:

  • Gaining motor skills that support physical competence
  • Improving maths skills by measuring areas or perimeters
  • Great understanding of biodiversity and the environment
  • Learning about humanities and social sciences (for example through an outdoor walk through an urban environment)
  • Acquiring knowledge and skill when it comes to physical and health education

So how does this work in practice?

Outdoor education clearly has many benefits for all children across a range of social backgrounds. Implementing this often takes a policy shift that looks like:

  • Adapting outdoor areas so that the potential of education in those spaces can be maximised.
  • Offering equitable access to the outdoors to support greater equality and inclusion.
  • Change the perception of outdoor education so that it is properly valued.
  • Focus on outdoor education as a method for improving the wellbeing of both children and students.

Outdoor education offers many great benefits, from those that are psychological to the cognitive and the more obvious physical health benefits. It’s an investment in children in both the short and the long term.