Friday, March 30, 2012
Community design impacts physical activity among kids
In a recent study published in Health & Place, we examined whether children living in a community designed according to smart growth urban planning principles are more physically active than children living in conventional suburbs.
Children living in the smart growth community engaged in more physical activity within a few blocks from home, at places they walked to and with friends, compared with children living in conventional suburbs.
We studied the behavior of 121 children, ages 9 to 13, who lived in San Bernardino County, Calif. Approximately half of the children recently moved into a community designed according to smart growth urban planning principles; the other half lived in nearby conventional communities. Children responded to electronic surveys via mobile phones at random times, asking children to report whether they were engaging in physical activity; and if they were, where and with whom, as well as how they perceived their settings.
Children living in smart growth communities engaged in more physical activity near their homes than children who live in traditional suburban communities, possibly because smart growth communities may provide children better access to parks, playing fields and community centers that do not require parents to drive. Furthermore, children in smart growth communities may be active more often with friends because more children live within walking distance.Zoning and land use policies that promote compact housing development, walkable neighborhoods, close proximity of housing to shops and restaurants, and access to parks and recreation areas have the potential to increase children’s physical activity and reduce their risk for obesity.
For more information, visit Smart Growth Online, Active Living Research, APHA’s Physical Activity SPIG and Designing Healthy Communities book and DVD set.