The Challenge: Regular physical activity improves health and reduces risk for obesity, but children who live further from parks and recreational facilities are less active than those who live closer to such facilities.
Make an impact: Government, non-profit and private agencies can ensure that more funding for parks and recreation resources is allocated to communities with fewer of these resources.
What the findings are about: This policy brief summarizes findings from a ten-year longitudinal study showing that children who lived closer to parkland and recreational programs had much lower body mass index measurements at age 18 than comparable children who lived further away.
Key Findings and Recommendations:
Having parkland and recreational programs nearby significantly reduced children’s risk of overweight and obesity when they reached age 18. Recreational programming affected children’s body mass index much more than parkland.
Researchers estimated that if all children in the study had similar recreational programs near their homes, up to 9.5 percent would move from overweight to normal and approximately 2 percent would move from obese to overweight.
Policy makers should not only increase parks and recreation spending, but to also ensure that more funding goes to neighborhoods with fewer parks and recreational programs.
University of California, Berkeley. Parks and Recreational Programs Help to Reduce Childhood Obesity Policy Brief. July 2011. University of California Regents.