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Saturday 26th May 2018

Children who use parks less obese

17th March 2009

Obesity among children has been on the rise for many years now, amid significant lifestyle changes in the developed world.


However, they are still much less likely to become obese if they live close to parks and other play areas, according to a recent Canadian study.

Tracie A. Barnett of the University of Montreal, lead author of the study, said that there is a strong association between walking and the number of nearby public open recreational spaces, including neighbourhood parks, playgrounds and sports fields.

She said that her researchers related the proximity and number of parks to how often children aged 8 to 10 years walked, and that this discovery has important implications for public health strategies, as well as for helping to curb the obesity epidemic.

To study the effect of the proximity of parks and green spaces, researchers polled more than 600 children from 300 families with at least one obese parent.

In trying to determine what made the children move more, they also found that their results were consistent across the board socioeconomically, regardless of average family income or of where the parents chose to live.

They found that any given girl's likelihood of walking to school doubles if there is a park within a kilometer of her house, and that any given boy's likelihood of going for a walk for fun goes up by 60%.

The American Heart Association issued a statement advocating the idea of a walkable neighbourhood.

They advocate building and designing neighbourhoods around the idea of daily exercise routines, with sidewalks and playgrounds.

But the new research also shows how city planners can counteract the effect sedentary lifestyles have had upon rates of obesity by building well-maintained parks that are safe to use.

Barnett said that in the past few decades, people have begun moving around less and less owing to a number of factors. These include the widespread use of television, cars, microwaves, and computers.

She said that children are spending more time inside, even though spending time outdoors is an important determinant of activity, and that parks, outdoor recreational areas and walking or cycling infrastructure should all be built in order to increase active living.

In order to further study the life patterns of these children, researchers will keep polling them until they reach adulthood.


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