Research Study Abstract

Outdoor play in children: Associations with objectively-measured physical activity, sedentary behavior and weight status

  • Published on August 2014

Objectives: To determine the amount of time children play outdoors and examine associations with weekday, weekend and after-school physical activity (PA), sedentary behavior (SB), and weight-status (normal-weight, overweight/obese).

Methods: Data were extracted from Project BEAT (Toronto, 2010–2011; Children’s (n = 856; mean age = 11 ± 0.6 years) PA and SB were measured using accelerometry. Outdoor play (OP) was assessed via parental report and collapsed into three categories (< 1 h/day, 1–2 h/day, > 2 h/day) and differences in anthropometric and PA characteristics were assessed.

Results: 55.1%, 37.2%, and 7.7% of children played outdoors for < 1 h/day, 1–2 h/day and > 2 h/day, respectively, on weekdays. OP was higher on weekends and in boys. OP was associated with SB, light PA and MVPA at all time-points, whereby children attaining < 1 h/day had lower activity profiles. Boys playing outdoors for < 1 h/day were more likely to be overweight/obese and had lower PA levels than normal weight boys. However, overweight/obese boys who spent > 2 h/day playing outdoors had PA profiles similar to normal weight counterparts.

Conclusion: Encouraging children to spend more time outdoors may be an effective strategy for increasing PA, reducing SB, and preventing excess weight gain (particularly boys’ play).


Preventive Medicine