Research Study Abstract

Playgrounds and Children's Physical Activity

  • Added on November 12, 2010

Background The proximal relationship between community facilities, such as parks and playgrounds, and physical activity outcomes is considered important. However, there is little evidence about where the physical activity of free-living children actually occurs. This study used objective measurement in the investigation of the amount and location of physical activity of children in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Objectives The objective of this research was to describe and identify predictors of children’s physical activity that occurs within 30 metres of local authority playgrounds.

Methods Primary school children from two communities in Dunedin, New Zealand, were recruited to take part in a research project to measure the amount and place of their physical activity. Children wore an accelerometer and a global positioning data logger (GPS unit) for seven days. Data were collected October to December, 2007. The two communities were selected because they had broadly comparable socio-economic characteristics, but were geographically distinct within the Dunedin City boundaries. Total physical activity recorded by the accelerometer, and matched with the GPS unit data, was analysed to determine the amount of activity that occurred within 30 metres of territorial authority playgrounds.

Results The personal characteristics of the 184 participating children were very similar. Community A: n=88, mean age=7.5±1.6, 53 (54%) female, Overweight=17 (19%), Obese=10 (11%); Community B: n=96, mean age=7.5±1.5, 46 (48%) female, Overweight=20 (21%), Obese=9 (9%). Household characteristics were also similar. Community A: 11/80 (14%)=number of households with no motor vehicles available for use, and 28/76 (37%)=number with annual household income of less than NZ$25,000; Community B: 14/84 (16%)=number of households with no motor vehicles available for use, and 18/84 (21%)=number with annual household income of less than NZ$25,000. There is evidence that children are more likely to be physically active within 30 metres of a territorial authority playground on public holiday or weekend days, compared to school days (ratio of geometric means=6.3, p<0.001, 95% CI 2.9 – 13.7). There is no evidence that age, sex, household income, number of household vehicles, community, NZDep2006, neighbourhood perception scale, BMI, ethnicity, usual mode of travel to/from school, days of activities, household dog, number of adults in household, or number of younger children in family is associated with being physically activity within 30 metres of a playground.

Conclusions Children are physically active near playgrounds. Our study identified a day-of-the-week effect, but there was no evidence that other characteristics, such as age, sex or household income was associated with playground physical activity. Our findings suggest that playgrounds can facilitate physical activity in a wide range of children, irrespective of their individual, family, and community differences.