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      Do attributes in the physical environment influence children's physical activity? A review of the literature

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          Abstract

          Background

          Many youth today are physically inactive. Recent attention linking the physical or built environment to physical activity in adults suggests an investigation into the relationship between the built environment and physical activity in children could guide appropriate intervention strategies.

          Method

          Thirty three quantitative studies that assessed associations between the physical environment (perceived or objectively measured) and physical activity among children (ages 3 to 18-years) and fulfilled selection criteria were reviewed. Findings were categorized and discussed according to three dimensions of the physical environment including recreational infrastructure, transport infrastructure, and local conditions.

          Results

          Results across the various studies showed that children's participation in physical activity is positively associated with publicly provided recreational infrastructure (access to recreational facilities and schools) and transport infrastructure (presence of sidewalks and controlled intersections, access to destinations and public transportation). At the same time, transport infrastructure (number of roads to cross and traffic density/speed) and local conditions (crime, area deprivation) are negatively associated with children's participation in physical activity.

          Conclusion

          Results highlight links between the physical environment and children's physical activity. Additional research using a transdisciplinary approach and assessing moderating and mediating variables is necessary to appropriately inform policy efforts.

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          Most cited references56

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          A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents.

          Understanding the factors that influence physical activity can aid the design of more effective interventions. Previous reviews of correlates of youth physical activity have produced conflicting results. A comprehensive review of correlates of physical activity was conducted, and semiquantitative results were summarized separately for children (ages 3-12) and adolescents (ages 13-18). The 108 studies evaluated 40 variables for children and 48 variables for adolescents. About 60% of all reported associations with physical activity were statistically significant. Variables that were consistently associated with children's physical activity were sex (male), parental overweight status, physical activity preferences, intention to be active, perceived barriers (inverse), previous physical activity, healthy diet, program/facility access, and time spent outdoors. Variables that were consistently associated with adolescents' physical activity were sex (male), ethnicity (white), age (inverse), perceived activity competence, intentions, depression (inverse), previous physical activity, community sports, sensation seeking, sedentary after school and on weekends (inverse), parent support, support from others, sibling physical activity, direct help from parents, and opportunities to exercise. These consistently related variables should be confirmed in prospective studies, and interventions to improve the modifiable variables should be developed and evaluated.
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            Environmental factors associated with adults' participation in physical activity: a review.

            N Humpel (2002)
            Promoting physical activity is a public health priority, and changes in the environmental contexts of adults' activity choices are believed to be crucial. However, of the factors associated with physical activity, environmental influences are among the least understood. Using journal scans and computerized literature database searches, we identified 19 quantitative studies that assessed the relationships with physical activity behavior of perceived and objectively determined physical environment attributes. Findings were categorized into those examining five categories: accessibility of facilities, opportunities for activity, weather, safety, and aesthetic attributes. Accessibility, opportunities, and aesthetic attributes had significant associations with physical activity. Weather and safety showed less-strong relationships. Where studies pooled different categories to create composite variables, the associations were less likely to be statistically significant. Physical environment factors have consistent associations with physical activity behavior. Further development of ecologic and environmental models, together with behavior-specific and context-specific measurement strategies, should help in further understanding of these associations. Prospective studies are required to identify possible causal relationships.
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              Understanding environmental influences on walking; Review and research agenda.

              Understanding how environmental attributes can influence particular physical activity behaviors is a public health research priority. Walking is the most common physical activity behavior of adults; environmental innovations may be able to influence rates of participation. Review of studies on relationships of objectively assessed and perceived environmental attributes with walking. Associations with environmental attributes were examined separately for exercise and recreational walking, walking to get to and from places, and total walking. Eighteen studies were identified. Aesthetic attributes, convenience of facilities for walking (sidewalks, trails); accessibility of destinations (stores, park, beach); and perceptions about traffic and busy roads were found to be associated with walking for particular purposes. Attributes associated with walking for exercise were different from those associated with walking to get to and from places. While few studies have examined specific environment-walking relationships, early evidence is promising. Key elements of the research agenda are developing reliable and valid measures of environmental attributes and walking behaviors, determining whether environment-behavior relationships are causal, and developing theoretical models that account for environmental influences and their interactions with other determinants.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act
                The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
                BioMed Central (London )
                1479-5868
                2006
                27 July 2006
                : 3
                : 19
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, University at Albany (SUNY), Albany, NY, USA
                [2 ]Department of Geography and Planning, University at Albany (SUNY), Albany, NY, USA
                Article
                1479-5868-3-19
                10.1186/1479-5868-3-19
                1557665
                16872543
                188f07f5-d8ad-4212-b027-00226df09836
                Copyright © 2006 Davison and Lawson; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Review

                Nutrition & Dietetics
                Nutrition & Dietetics

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