A new study of 6,500 children has indicated strongly that those growing up without a garden were more likely to become obese and suffer diseases related to being overweight.

Alarming statistics

By the age of just 3-5 years, kids who did not have a garden were more likely to be overweight by 7. Children with a garden show no such similarly alarming statistics. And a close inspection showed that these figures were not necessarily dependent on socio-economic status. The 38% increase of obesity in garden-less children was exactly the same between those from lower levels of education as those from a higher level of education.

So it seems there is a strong link here in early fitness habits and the garden boosts child health.


The VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam was behind the study and it has thrown up a very interesting point and one that has perhaps received very little attention in the past. The report stated, “To conclude, we showed that limits on access to outdoor space is associated with future childhood overweight/obesity”.

The findings were formally presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference in Stockholm.

Statistics continue to pile up and cause increasing concern. It is now apparent that one in five children in the UK is officially classed as obese by the time they leave primary school. How shocking is that!

And it is no secret that children who fall into the obesity trap early will go on to suffer as a result and, in all likelihood, become an obese adult and develop increased risks of heart disease and diabetes. All of which will all add to the estimated £5 billion obesity costs the NHS every year.

A child’s most formative years

There are many factors of course and it isn’t just as simple as fixing one thing to cure the entire problem. But it does seem that the lack of outdoor run around space in a child’s most formative years has an immediate and potentially negative lifelong impact on a person.

Kate Staples, a former GB athlete who is known to millions as ‘Zodiac’ on TV’s Gladiators, has worked with children for years and runs Athletics Academies with schools. She commented, “Kids are never happier than when given the licence to run around. It is absolutely in their nature to want and need to too.

She added, “Stifling that is a bad thing. Speaking as a mother of three, we need them to exert themselves and burn off energy! Allowing a child to become sedentary will simply deplete their natural energy levels and that will affect just about everything about them. Early fitness habits account for so much of what happens in later life.

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“Of course there are new issues these days with all manner of TV and computer based entertainment which seems to be quite addictive to many. I accept there is some brain stimulation involved in all this but it does not equate to the simple act of mucking around outdoors where you become a phenomenal processing machine; absorbing, digesting and computing a thousand messages a second. We process more messages in a day now than our ancient ancestors had to process in an entire lifetime. This is good and children must be open to it. Being outside provides a further horizon – metaphorically and literally!

“Being outside also enhances proprioception and teaches our body to move and make calculations and adjustments to instantaneously adapt to the surroundings we are working in. This is not something leant indoors in front of a computer or TV screen. The mind can take us to amazing places, conjure remarkable things and lead to wondrous achievement. But the body needs to go somewhere too.”

So is it true the garden boosts child health? It would seem so…

Read more from Expert Guy Holland.

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