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Kids Who Live Near Green Spaces Seem to Walk More
Date:3/12/2009

Experts urge urban planners to heed study's finding and help fight obesity

THURSDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Living close to parks and other play areas may keep children more active and help combat the continued increase in childhood obesity, Canadian researchers report.

For every park found within a half-mile of home, a girl's likelihood of walking to school doubled and a boy's odds of taking part in leisure walking increased by 60 percent, according to the findings, scheduled to be presented at an American Heart Association conference in Palm Harbor, Fla.

"There was a strong association between walking and the number of nearby public open recreational spaces, including neighborhood parks, playgrounds and sports fields," the study's lead author, Tracie A. Barnett, a researcher at Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and Université de Montréal in Canada, said in a news release issued by the Heart Association. "We were able to relate the proximity and number of parks to how often children aged 8 to 10 years walked."

The finding "is important because active transportation is a promising public health strategy for increasing overall physical activity, and for helping to curb the obesity epidemic," she said.

Data for the study came from 300 families and more than 600 children participating in a study of weight and cardiometabolic risk in kids. Children in the study were all considered at a high risk for obesity because at least one parent already was obese. The researchers said that the findings were consistent even when factoring in family income and average level of education in the neighborhood, a measure of economic advantage.

Childhood and adolescent obesity increased three-fold in the past two decades, a rapid climb that Barnett said is thought to be more environmental than biological.

"In the past few decades, we have become more sedentary due to the incr
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