Study: Kids Who Live in Walkable Neighborhoods Get More Exercise

A study published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Health finds that children who live in walkable places — “smart growth neighborhoods,” to use the authors’ phrase — get significantly more exercise than their peers who live in suburban environments designed for driving.

Kids who live in a community planned for walkability got significantly more daily physical activities than those who lived in sprawling places. Image: ##http://www.ajpmonline.org/##American Journal of Preventative Medicine##

Researchers from UC Berkeley monitored the activity of 59 children living at The Preserve — a planned community near Chino, California, designed to be more walkable than conventional subdivisions — using GPS tracking monitors and accelerometers worn on the waist. They were compared to a control group of 88 kids from eight nearby “conventional” communities, with similar demographic and income characteristics. All the children were between ages 8 and 14.

The research team found that children living in the smart growth neighborhood got ten more minutes of physical activity per day than kids in the more sprawling communities. That translates to 46 percent more exercise for children in walkable communities.

“We were surprised by the size of the effect,” lead author Michael Jerrett, Ph.D., professor in the School of Public Health at Berkeley, told Science Daily. “Ten minutes of extra activity a day may not sound like much, but it adds up.”

The research team said developing smart growth communities and retrofitting existing neighborhoods for greater walkability could be key to helping kids get the recommended level of physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control recommend 60 minutes of daily aerobic activity for children. In America, only 42 percent of children ages 6 to 11 meet this threshold. Among children ages 12 to 19, only 8 percent get recommended levels.

  • Jesse

    Study: New York´s skyscrapers are tall. (Duh et al., 2013)

  • Adam Herstein

    No shit, Sherlock.

  • I know this is what we’d all like to believe, but this is not what the study showed. Rather, the study showed that kids in smart growth neighborhoods get more of their exercise out and about in the neighborhood. In fact, the study seems to purposefully ignore at home exercise, but of course at home exercise is a huge part of total exercise, particularly for those kids in auto-oriented suburbs.

    Walking around your neighborhood may be valuable for various reasons, but at least this study doesn’t comment on whether it helps kids get more total exercise.

    Also, the difference according to the study is 2 minutes, not 10. The latter figure is a hypothetical assuming kids never got any exercise at home.

  • anon_coward

    that and all the schools i see in the burbs have huge sports fields for kids to play sports after school while the parents are still working

  • Bolwerk

    Yeah, now I see the light. A sports field reserved for the kids playing sports seems way better than opportunities to walk around and be mobile on their own.

  • I agree walking around on your own is better, but that is debatable. As for who gets more exercise, that is still an open question.

  • john

    Ten minutes, that’s it? Insignificant but at least the kids get to know the neighborhood and how to find their way without being perpetually chauffeured.

  • davistrain

    And sports fields are great for kids with athletic talent, but for us nerds, they’re a waste of space.

  • Anonymous

    This study should have also measured the effect of forced school using has on students’ level of exercise and hours of sleep. Forcing 6-year olds to spend 3 hours a day commuting across town when there is a perfectly good school ithin a 5 minute walk is truly criminal (cf. SFUSD).

  • Bolwerk

    When people can’t walk around on their own they, point blank, don’t get exercise unless they go out of their way to or are forced to.

    There is nothing wrong with sports fields, but they don’t replace properly designed streets.

  • Anonymous

    When I was a kid, neither me, my brothers nor ANY of my friends did exercise indoors at home. Not even in the cold of Canadian winter. At home, we watched TV, played video games and read.

    I think you’re using an insignificant factor to deny this study. Some kids may well exercise at home, but they are a tiny minority, and likely to be equally distributed between smart growth and conventional developments. And there is just no basis to believe that kids will think “I can’t go anywhere, so I’m gonna exercise more at home”.

  • Anonymous

    Those fields are for the sports teams and are unused the rest of the time.

    Why? Because most kids in the suburbs aren’t at walking distance from their school. They get taken by school buses to their school at a precise time and get taken by school buses from their school to their home at a precise time. If they miss either, they have no other way of getting to their school except by asking for a ride from someone.

    So even if kids or teens want to use the sports field after classes, they likely can’t, because as soon as the classes end, they have to catch the bus to take them home.

    Personally, I think school buses should just get scrapped and kids should have to use city bus lines (like in Europe and Japan). That way, they have some independent mobility and you create an incentive for the community to care about transit that everyone can use. Plus, kids who learn to navigate transit lines early on will tend to be more likely to consider them later in life.

  • The study only said at home, not necessarily indoors. Many suburban homes have basketball courts, swimming pools, etc.

  • Anonymous

    According to the methods and results, the authors conducted a sensitivity analysis that included home activity as defined as a 30-meter radius area (defined by a GPS point cloud) around their home from 2 AM to 4 AM. When they accounted for home activity, the smart growth community kids had 30% greater MVPA ratio than those in comparison communities versus the 46% difference when only examining non-home, neighborhood activity. This difference was still statistically significant based on the 95% CI. I think the purpose of not focusing on home activity was to try and assess what contribution the community design adds to physical activity above and beyond what they might be doing at home. This also excluded school activity to further try and assess what the community design specifically adds (which was also excluded from the main results). It should be noted that this excludes any summer activity because of school schedule differences.

  • August

    Americas most walkable communities are also among Americas most sustainable cities, its healthiest and most prosperous communities and its happiest places. In Donaldsonville LA people live in proximity to shops, schools and jobs, and where sidewalks and other pedestrian pathways create safe attractive environments, walking is a way of life. There are fewer fuel-burning vehicles, less pollution, more commerce, higher property values and, often, more parks and outlying open spaces preserved for posterity. There are community gathering points for farmers markets and outdoor entertainment.

    Outdoor music During Annual Avenue Stroll Event

    Plus, people use their legs to do more than switch from the gas pedal to the brake. Thats why when it comes to sustaining the quality of the environment, the biggest gains often come from improving inner cities. America Walks has recently updated its list of Americas Most Walkable Cities, to highlight the places making the most progress. It compares Census data and a variety of parameters in 2,500 U.S. cities to determine its Walk Score rankings based on principles of New Urbanism.

    Covered Side walks on Main Street Donaldsonville

    Donaldsonville is too small of a town to make this list, but that does not change it’s score. If you live in one of these communities, feel pride. And if you’re traveling, consider making one of these cities a destination. Visit Donaldsonville, stay at one of the local main street Bed and Breakfasts. Or if you in town for several weeks or more, Ascension Corporate Rentals has a selection of furnished homes and Corporate apartments.

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