Green spaces, such as parks and recreation areas may go a long way in helping children fight obesity. When green spaces are found in proximity to homes, children remain more active. A recent study addresses just such an approach, that may help reduce the rising incidence of chldhood obesity by simply developing green spaces for children to play.
Tracie A. Barnett, Ph.D., lead author of the new study says,” 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. There was a strong association between walking and the number of nearby public open recreational spaces, including neighborhood parks, playgrounds and sports fields." The study results were presented at the American Heart Association's Conference on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism.
The Quebec Adipose and Lifestyle Investigation in Youth (QUALITY) study includes over 600 children and biological parents - implemented to help researchers understand metabolic and natural factors that contribute to obesity in children.
Dr. Barnett explains, "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." All of the children enrolled in the current study were considered high risk for obesity because at least one parent is obese. The researchers gathered information about the proximity of parks, measured metabolic risk factors among the children, and provided questionnaires regarding walking activity among the children during clinic visits.
The study found that children who live near parks and other green spaces where they can safely walk and play are more active. Green spaces located within a half mile of home were associated with more activity among the children, including walking to school.
According to the American Heart Association,"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.”
The researchers suggest an emphasis on providing safe recreational areas when considering urban improvements. Sedentary activities such as watching TV have greatly contributed to childhood obesity. Designing neighborhoods with more green space and walking areas can have a positive impact on helping children fight obesity.
The QUALITY study highlights the importance of urban planning and improvement to include safe parks and recreational areas that promote activity among children.
The study will follow the children for the next ten years. Developing more green spaces in urban environments is likely to have a significant impact on the fight against childhood obesity.
Read More from the American Heart Association:
How to Get Your Kids Moving
Top 10 Ways to Help Children Develop Healthy Habits