By Pat Hagan(The Daily Mail) October 2008.
A stroll in the park could be just as effective for treating hyperactive children as drugs such as Ritalin, a study has revealed.
Troubled youngsters showed significant improvements in concentration levels after what researchers called 'a dose of nature'.
A 20-minute walk in green surroundings gave improvements on a par with a daily dose of drugs for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
A pleasant stroll in the park could be just as effective as drugs for calming hyperactive children
Record levels of medicines are being dished out to hyperactive children on the NHS.
Latest figures show GPs wrote more than 535,000 prescriptions for anti-hyperactivity drugs last year - more than 10,000 a week. The figure has doubled since 2002.
Critics have accused doctors of using such drugs as a 'chemical cosh' to calm thousands of youngsters thought to have ADHD, a condition that makes them inattentive or boisterous and unable to concentrate at school.
Roughly one child in every classroom is thought to be affected by ADHD.
In the latest study, researchers at the University of Illinois took a group of 17 hyperactive children on three walks in a park, town centre and residential area.
The children stayed off their medication that day so researchers could be sure any benefit was from the environment alone.
The youngsters were tested on their powers of concentration after each walk.
After strolling in green areas, their scores were improved by as much, if not more than, when they took prescription drugs.
But the same children did not get any benefit from walking through town centres or residential streets.
Ritalin is one of three drugs recommended by the NHS to treat ADHD - but a 'dose of nature' has been suggested as a chemical-free alternative
Researcher Andrea Faber Taylor said: 'The greenest space was best at improving attention.
'We calculated the size of the effect in our study and compared it with the size of effect in a recent study involving medication.
'We were surprised to see the "dose of nature" had effects the same size or even larger than those of drugs.
'We can't say for sure that two hours of outdoor play will get you this many days of good behaviour. But we can say as little as 20 minutes could potentially buy you an afternoon, or a couple of hours, to get homework done.'
Andrea Bilbow, from the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service, said it was a well-known fact that fresh air and exercise could calm down a child.
But she stressed: 'You cannot possibly alter the structure of the brain by going out and looking at trees. There is no good evidence that this is as effective as drug treatment.'
Attention aid or chemical cosh?
Ritalin is one of three drugs recommended by the NHS to treat ADHD. Side effects can include hallucinations, insomnia, headaches, mood swings, decreased appetite, bleeding and suicidal thoughts.
Ritalin and similar medications have been linked to 12 deaths in the UK.
It is a methylphenidate - the same class of drug as cocaine and amphetamines.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1080447/A-stroll-park-good-calming-children-Ritalin-study-finds.html#ixzz1TOI42NRD