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Urban green spaces for children: A cross-sectional study of associations with distance, physical activity, screen time, general health, and overweight

Summary


Closeness to urban green space is related to higher frequency of physical activity and less screen time for children but not for teens

The aim of this study was to investigate associations between distance to urban green spaces (UGSs), children’s physical activity (PA), screen time, health, and overweight status. Data for this study was based on 422 Turkish children and youth who had access to seven different UGSs (including a public open space, an urban park, neighborhood parks, and urban greenways).

Researchers conducted personal interviews with 288 parents in a public open space in Aydin, Turkey. The interviews were based on a short questionnaire which took each parent approximately six minutes to complete. Interview questions focused on children’s levels of PA, general health status, and screen time. The questionnaire also collected information about the children’s background (age, sex), parent income, and walking distance from home to the nearest UGS. Parents completed questionnaires for more than one child in the family, when appropriate.

Overall results indicated that UGS closeness was related to higher frequency of PA and less screen time. Higher frequency of PA was related to better health, but no relationship was found with children‘s overweight status. There were some differences between boys and girls in that greater distance from home to UGS was related to longer screen time for girls but not for boys. There were also some age-related differences. UGS closeness was related to higher frequency of PA for 1–6 and 7–12 years old. For 7-12 years old, UGS closeness was also related to longer duration of PA and less screen time. There were no significant findings for children in the 13-18 age range, possibly due to potential barriers to their UGS use. Such barriers could include inadequate design and less attractiveness for teenagers, parental concerns about safety, and teenagers’ preference for online communication with peers.

These findings suggest that the closer UGSs are to home, the more children use them for PA and the less they engage in screen time. Closer UGSs seem to be especially important to girls in reducing screen time and increasing frequency of PA. The authors offer recommendations for further research including investigations into why UGSs do not seem to be associated with PA and general health in children in the 13-18 age group.

This research is consistent with other studies indicating that access to urban green space can promote the physical activity and health of children.

Citation

Akpinar, A., (2017). Urban green spaces for children: A cross-sectional study of associations with distance, physical activity, screen time, general health, and overweight. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 25, 66-73.

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