Parents should consider teen activity options when choosing home
Washington: Parents should consider teen activity options when choosing where to live so that children can maintain a healthy weight, suggests a new study.
The research has appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Lead author Sandy Slater, a research assistant professor at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said: "Active-living neighbourhoods are an essential part of reversing our nation’s obesity epidemic.
"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 neighbourhoods.
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 centre, a movie theatre or coffee shop can also matter.
Heather Wooten, a senior planning and policy associate with Planning for Healthy Places at Public Health Law and Policy, said: "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."
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.
Slater said: "Perceptions of neighbourhood safety were one of the strongest predictors of physical activity.
"If kids don’t feel safe walking or biking in their neighbourhood then they’re not likely to use outdoor physical-activity related settings or facilities."
Wooten suggests that communities could reap some benefits from working with local teens in planning teen-specific recreational facilities.
She said: "They may find skate parks, community gardens, or bike trails are more teens`` speed."
When choosing a neighbourhood to live in, parents might want to look beyond whether their school has a fancy new sports field.
Wooten said: "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."