Research Study Abstract

Environmental influences on children’s physical activity

  • Published on Oct. 30, 2014

Background: This paper aims to assess whether 7-year-olds’ physical activity is associated with family and area-level measures of the physical and socioeconomic environments.

Methods: We analysed the association of environments with physical activity in 6497 singleton children from the UK Millennium Cohort Study with reliable accelerometer data (≥2 days and ≥10 h/day). Activity levels were assessed as counts per minute; minutes of moderate to vigorous activity (MVPA); and whether meeting recommended guidelines (≥60 min/day MVPA).

Results: Higher levels of children’s physical activity were associated with households without use of a car and with having a television in a child’s bedroom (for counts per minute only). Aspects of the home socioeconomic environment that were associated with more children’s physical activity were lone motherhood, lower maternal socioeconomic position and education, family income below 60% national median, and not owning the home. Children’s activity levels were higher when parents perceived their neighbourhood as poor for bringing up children and also when families were living in the most deprived areas. Relationships were independent of characteristics such as child’s body mass index and ethnic group. When adjusted for physical and socioeconomic correlates, the factors remaining significant in all outcomes were: household car usage and maternal education.

Conclusion: Although physical and socioeconomic environments are associated with children’s physical activity, much of the variation appears to be determined by the child’s home socioeconomic circumstances rather than the wider environment where they live.


  • Theodora Pouliou 1
  • Francesco Sera 2
  • Lucy Griffiths 2
  • Heather Joshi 3
  • Marco Geraci 2,4
  • Mario Cortina-Borja 2,4
  • Catherine Law 2


  • 1

    School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

  • 2

    UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK

  • 3

    Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education University of London, London, UK

  • 4

    Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA


Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health


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