Consider Teen Activity Options When Choosing Where to Live

May 27, 2010 By Joan Vos MacDonald

Choosing a neighborhood that has places to walk to and safe routes to get there can help your child maintain a healthy weight during adolescence.

A new study correlated the incidence of obesity in students grades eight through ten with options for physical activity in their immediate environment.

The study coincides with a new report that only 20 percent of homes have parks or recreation centers a half-mile or less away.

“Active-living neighborhoods are an essential part of reversing our nation’s ,” said Sandy Slater, Ph.D., lead study author and a research assistant professor at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Young teens who can walk and bike safely near home and have access to physical activity settings are much more likely to be active and much less likely to be obese.”

The three-year study collected data from more than 12,000 students, with roughly a third each living in urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods. Environmental factors included the presence of parks and sports fields and whether teens could walk safely to reach such settings or just walk in general.

Being able to walk or bike to a nearby teen-friendly destination, such as a community arts center, a movie theater or coffee shop can also matter.

“These destinations themselves don’t involve physical activity, but being able to safely walk or bike to them increases your ability to engage in moderate physical activity on a regular basis,” said Heather Wooten, a senior planning and policy associate with Planning for Healthy Places at Public Health Law and Policy.

While settings such as playgrounds appealed to younger children, said Slater, the study found they did not motivate teens. Bike paths were most likely to be associated with lower incidence of obesity.

Safety was also important. “Perceptions of neighborhood safety were one of the strongest predictors of physical activity,” said Slater. “If kids don’t feel safe walking or biking in their neighborhood then they’re not likely to use outdoor related settings or facilities.”

Wooten suggests that communities could reap some benefits from working with local teens in planning teen-specific recreational facilities. “They may find skate parks, community gardens, or bike trails are more teens’ speed,” she said.

When choosing a neighborhood to live in, parents might want to look beyond whether their school has a fancy new sports field.

“They should also look at whether their teens can walk or bike to school, and whether they can walk or bike to nearby destinations - whether those destinations are parks or a YMCA or even the local library,” said Wooten.

Explore further: Physician/Pharmacist model can improve mean BP

More information: Slater SJ, et al. The association between community physical activity settings and youth physical activity, obesity and body mass index. J Adol Health online, 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The Medical Minute: Making fitness fun for everyone

Apr 21, 2010

( -- Heading outdoors with family and friends is a great opportunity for children to have fun, be active, expand their imaginations and experience all the joys of nature. With longer, warmer days, it’s important ...

Recommended for you

Physician/Pharmacist model can improve mean BP

Mar 27, 2015

(HealthDay)—A physician/pharmacist collaborative model can improve mean blood pressure (BP), according to a study published online March 24 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Innovative prototype presented for post-ICU patients

Mar 27, 2015

(HealthDay)—A collaborative care model, the Critical Care Recovery Center (CCRC), represents an innovative prototype aimed to improve the quality of life of intensive care unit (ICU) survivors, according ...

Clues to a city's health may be found in its sewage

Mar 27, 2015

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee suggests that sampling a city's sewage can tell scientists a great deal about its residents – and may someday lead to improvements in public health.

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.