Research Study Abstract

Perceived and objective neighborhood support for outside of school physical activity in South African children

  • Published on June 1, 2016

Background: The neighborhood environment has the potential to influence children’s participation in physical activity. However, children’s outdoor play is controlled by parents to a great extent. This study aimed to investigate whether parents’ perceptions of the neighborhood environment and the objectively measured neighborhood environment were associated with children’s moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) outside of school hours; and to determine if these perceptions and objective measures of the neighborhood environment differ between high and low socio-economic status (SES) groups.

Methods: In total, 258 parents of 9–11 year-old children, recruited from the South African sample of the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE), completed a questionnaire concerning the family and neighborhood environment. Objective measures of the environment were also obtained using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Children wore an Actigraph (GT3X+) accelerometer for 7 days to measure levels of MVPA. Multilevel regression models were used to determine the association between the neighborhood environment and MVPA out of school hours.

Results: Parents’ perceptions of the neighborhood physical activity facilities were positively associated with children’s MVPA before school (β = 1.50 ± 0.51, p = 0.003). Objective measures of neighborhood safety and traffic risk were associated with children’s after-school MVPA (β = −2.72 ± 1.35, p = 0.044 and β = −2.63 ± 1.26, p = 0.038, respectively). These associations were significant in the low SES group (β = −3.38 ± 1.65, p = 0.040 and β = −3.76 ± 1.61, p = 0.020, respectively), but unrelated to MVPA in the high SES group.

Conclusions: This study found that several of the objective measures of the neighborhood environment were significantly associated with children’s outside-of-school MVPA, while most of the parents’ perceptions of the neighborhood environment were unrelated.


  • Monika Uys 1
  • Stephanie T. Broyles 2
  • Catherine E. Draper 1
  • Sharief Hendricks 1
  • Dale Rae 1
  • Nirmala Naidoo 3
  • Peter T. Katzmarzyk 3
  • Estelle V. Lambert 1


  • 1

    Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town

  • 2

    Pennington Biomedical Research Center

  • 3

    Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town


BMC Public Health