School Gardens Increase Kids' Physical Activity - Even at Home

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Back to school time has arrived, and many of the schools in our metropolitan areas are planning their learning gardens. School gardens teach children how to tend gardens, about proper nutrition and not surprisingly, increase physical activity, according to a recent Cornell University study.

The two-year research project looked at 12 New York elementary schools and found that children who are in garden themed hands-on learning curricula were more physically active at school and, what’s more exciting, were substantially less sedentary at home than their counterparts.

With nearly one in three American children overweight or obese, school gardens are a simple, low-cost way to increase physical activity among children, says Nancy Wells, professor of design and environmental analysis in Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

"This is the first true experiment to measure the effects of school gardens on children's physical activity, and we found a significant increase," Wells said. "It is notable that in our intervention, kids were only spending an hour or two per week in the gardens, yet there was a significant difference in physical activity. The findings suggest that if schools embraced gardens further and integrated them into lesson plans, there might be an even greater effect."