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Centre de recherche
Thursday, March 12 2009

Les enfants vivant à proximité d’espaces verts marchent davantage

PALM HARBOR, Fla., March 12, 2009 — Children at risk for overweight status and who live near parks, green spaces or recreational areas are more likely to get moving, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s conference in Florida. The new Canadian study, which is still in progress, is examining the relationship between park proximity and walking.

All the children recruited to take part in the study are considered at high risk for future weight problems because at least one of their parents is obese. Researchers will follow these families over the next 10 years, or until subjects reach 18, to determine the effects of their environments on obesity. So far, researchers have found that girls who live near parks are encouraged to walk to school and boys to engage in leisurely walking.

“There’s a strong association between walking and the number of nearby public open recreational spaces, including neighborhood parks, playgrounds and sports fields,” says Tracie A. Barnett, lead author, a professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the Université de Montréal and a researcher at the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center.

For every additional park located within a half mile of their home, the likelihood of walking to school more than doubles among girls and leisure walking by boys increases by 60 percent. The findings held after taking into account family income and the average level of education in the neighborhood (an indicator of area disadvantage).

“We related the proximity and number of parks to how often children aged 8-10 years walked,” says Dr. Barnett. “This is important, since active transportation is a promising public health strategy to increase physical activity and to help curb the obesity epidemic. We know that walking to school has been decreasing steadily for the past 30 years as obesity rates surged, which suggests these two phenomena may be linked.”

The findings presented at the American Heart Association’s conference are part of the Quebec Adipose and Lifestyle Investigation in Youth (QUALITY), which will follow some 600 children and their biological parents to observe in children the natural history of excess weight and cardio-metabolic risks.

“Obesity in children and adolescents has tripled in the past two decades,” says Dr. Barnett. “Although obesity has many causes, this relatively sudden and steep increase suggests that the drivers of the obesity epidemic are largely environmental rather than biological or genetic in nature. Parks may benefit girls and boys differently, but are associated with increased overall walking for both.”

Persons mentioned in the text

About the study
This research was conducted by members of TEAM PRODIGY, an inter-university research team including Université de Montréal, Concordia University, Université Laval, McGill University and INRS-Institut Armand Frappier. Co-authors include Marie Lambert, Yan Kestens, Lise Gauvin, Andraea Van Hulst and Mark Daniel.

Partners in research
This study is supported by by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.

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Updated on 11/20/2014
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