In a Canadian study, the presence of nearby parks was strongly associated with girls walking to school and boys engaging in leisure walking. For every additional park located within a half mile of their home, the likelihood of walking to school more than doubled among girls and leisure walking by boys increased by 60 percent. Results were similar even after taking into account family income and the average level of education in the neighborhood, an indicator of area disadvantage.
"There was a strong association between walking and the number of nearby public open recreational spaces, including neighborhood parks, playgrounds and sports fields," said Tracie A. Barnett, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and Université de Montréal in Montreal, Canada. "We were able to relate the proximity and number of parks to how often children aged 8-10 years walked. This is important because active transportation is a promising public health strategy for increasing overall physical activity, and for helping to curb the obesity epidemic. We know that walking to school has been decreasing steadily for the past 30 years; concurrent increases in overweight and obesity suggest that these two phenomena may be linked."
The results are based on the first 300 families enrolled into the Quebec Adipose and Lifestyle Investigation in Youth (QUALITY) study in which researchers are following over 600 children and both biological parents to study the natural history of excess weight and cardiometabolic risk in children.
"Obesity in children and adolescents has tripled in the past 20 or so years," Barnett said. "Although obesity has many causes, this relatively sudden and steep increase suggests that the drivers of the obesity epidemic are largely environmental rather than biological or genetic in nature."
In this study, researchers examined the relationship between park availability and proximity, and walking. All the children were considered at high risk for future obesity because at least one of their parents was obese. Clinic visits determined body fat distribution, fitness, metabolic, genetic/familial, and behavioral factors that could lead to obesity. Both parents and children completed questionnaires during the clinic visit, and children provided a seven-day recall of walking for leisure and their usual methods of getting to and from school. Location of parks was obtained using a geographic information system.
In this sample, researchers found:
One-third of the children walked to and from school.
Parks located within approximately one half mile had the strongest association with walking in this age group.
A greater number of parks were associated more with purpose-driven walking in girls and with leisure walking in boys.
"Parks may benefit girls and boys differently, but are associated with increased overall walking for both," said Barnett, who is also assistant professor of Social and Preventive Medicine at the Université de Montréal.
"In the past few decades we have become more sedentary due to the increased use of labor-saving devices, motorized transportation, television and computers," she said. "In addition, children are spending more time inside, yet we know that spending time outdoors is an important determinant of activity.
In future urban improvements, consideration must be given to parks, outdoor recreational areas and walking or cycling infrastructure in order to increase active living. Equally important is that the parks and recreational areas are well maintained and are safe."
The cross-sectional study provided a "snapshot" look at the environment, but researchers will be following these families over the next 10 years. The researchers plan to follow the children until age 18 to determine the effects of their environments on the development of obesity.
While this study does not provide specific information on the mechanism by which the presence of parks might affect activity in other places, it does provide useful data on how differences in urban environments may translate into differences in lifestyle activities, researchers said.
As the children become teenagers, the environment will evolve, especially as they attain more freedom and become more independent, Barnett said. "Factors that influence their health and lifestyle behaviors will change and these will need to be reassessed."
An American Heart Association statement released in June of 2008 says, "walkable" neighborhoods, with adequate sidewalks and areas for physical activity, can play an important role in combating the rise in obesity rates by making it easier to get daily exercise.
Karen Astle | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy