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Playing it safe: The influence of neighbourhood safety on children's physical activity - A review


Neighborhood safety influences children’s physical activity

Physical activity during childhood and adolescence provides many health benefits. In light of research suggesting that children are participating less frequently in active transport (e.g., walking and cycling), are spending less time outdoors, and that time spent outdoors is associated with increased physical activity, Carver and colleagues review research that investigates specific aspects of neighborhood safety and their association with the physical activity of children and adolescents. Studies to date have identified road safety and harm from strangers (or “stranger danger”) as being key concerns for parents. While evidence suggests that lower levels of neighborhood physical activity are associated with lack of perceived neighborhood safety, the authors found that more research is needed to examine specific associations between road safety and “stranger danger” on physical activity among children. Carver and colleagues also highlight studies examining differences between parents’ and children’s perceptions of neighborhood safety and the potential for parents to fall into various “social traps,” where by trying to protect their children, parents actually end up contributing to the problem. The authors review research related to physical and social interventions that have been implemented to improve neighborhood safety, including traffic calming initiatives (e.g., speed humps, reduced speed limits) and a Walking School Bus. They also identify future research needs, including longitudinal studies to better explore associations and determine causality, objective measurement of safety, and investigation of specific aspects of neighborhood safety.


Carver, A., Timperio, A., Crawford, D., (2008). Playing it safe: The influence of neighbourhood safety on children's physical activity - A review. Health & Place, 14(2), 217-227.

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