Where the Kids Aren't

Jun 05, 2007 By Tracey Peake

Physical activity in children is on the decline, and this is particularly apparent in public parks. Now, NC State researchers are studying urban parks and how they are being used – or not used – by local residents, particularly in disadvantaged communities which are at higher risk for obesity.

Most people associate summer with childhood memories of beach vacations, playing sports, spending time at the pool, or just hanging around with friends. But it might surprise you to discover that kids today have a somewhat different summer experience, and that outdoor activity is pretty far down on the list; so far down, in fact, that kids often find themselves heading back to school in August in worse physical shape than when they left in May.

Obviously, encouraging children to be more physically active is one way to solve this problem. Researchers from North Carolina State University are looking into the relationship between children, physical activity and public park usage to determine how this public resource might be utilized to help us combat the sedentary lifestyle that can lead to childhood obesity.

Robin Moore, professor of landscape architecture in NC State’s College of Design, and Dr. Jason Bocarro, assistant professor of parks, recreation and tourism management in NC State’s College of Natural Resources, are part of a team studying urban parks and how they are being used – or not used – by local residents, particularly in disadvantaged communities which are at higher risk for obesity.

“When you ask yourself why children aren’t using their local parks, you end up with a lot of contributing factors,” Bocarro says. “Children nowadays have a lot of demands on their time: sports, planned activities, homework, as well as TV and the computer. In addition, parents are concerned about their safety, and are a lot less likely now to allow children to roam unsupervised through a park, or through a neighborhood to get to a park.”

“Even getting to the park can be a challenge now,” Moore adds. “You have to factor in traffic patterns, street interconnectedness and the accessibility of the park. Traffic really is a major obstacle to park accessibility.”

A grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will be used to study park usage in Durham, which was selected because it’s an urban environment with a very high concentration of parks in the central area of the city. The researchers hope that their analysis will aid city planners in helping local residents get the most out of their parks.

“This summer we’ll start doing the data gathering,” Moore says. “We’ll be conducting focus groups within the community as well as studying who comes to the park, and what activities they engage in while they’re there. The following year will be devoted to data analysis, and then we hope to present a set of recommendations to community planners.”

“And it’s not just about studying how they get there – we also want to look at ways to make parks and recreational programming attractive to kids, and to increase parents’ comfort levels,” Bocarro says. “We have these great free, local resources that can really give kids a connection to community and help them get and stay healthy. It would be a crime not to use them to their fullest potential.”

Source: NC State University

Explore further: What's next for California's contentious vaccine law

Related Stories

Who's your daddy? If you're a gorilla, it doesn't matter

Jun 17, 2015

Being the daddy isn't important for male gorillas when it comes to their relationships with the kids; it's their rank in the group that makes the difference, says new research published in Animal Behaviour. The au ...

Recommended for you

What's next for California's contentious vaccine law

2 hours ago

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a hotly contested California bill to impose one of the strictest school vaccination laws in the country in the wake of an outbreak of measles at Disneyland late last year.

Targeting mistreatment of women during childbirth

11 hours ago

In a new systematic review appearing this week in PLOS Medicine, Meghan Bohren and colleagues of the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, including HRP, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health synthe ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.