A team of researchers from Finland wanted to learn more about the way in which outside play can influence the immune systems and microbiomes of children, and the results are quite interesting.
The researchers observed 75 children over a period of 10 days. Half of the children went to daycare centres focused on nature, while others went to standard daycare centres in urban areas. Samples from the surrounding environments were collected and analyzed in a laboratory. Blood and sweat samples from the children were also obtained.
There were also four daycare centres that were enhanced during the study, allowing researchers to track the changes more easily. Areas of the playground were covered with forest soil, and planets and peat blocks were brought. The children spent approximately one and a half hours playing outside during the research.
Children from the daycare centres where changes were made underwent a notable change as the level of anti-inflammatory, immune system proteins rose in comparison to that of pro-inflammatory proteins, with the values becoming similar to those encountered among children from nature-oriented daycare centres.
The study focused on the biodiversity theory, which argues that interaction with a natural environment offers benefits for the human microbiome and the immune system, allowing people to be more resistant in the face of allergies and immune-inflammatory diseases.
Data gathered during the studies infers that playing in forest dirt can stimulate the immune system, but additional research is required before it can be determined that there are positive effects in the long run. The main challenge is posed by the fact that companion studies that observe the development of children over the years are needed, as well as lots of resources and time.
Previous studies offered similar results, and the study has been published in a scientific journal.