Neighborhoods, School Environments & Physical Activity

This study takes advantage of a large, existing database of physical
activity measurements collected from sixth and seventh graders in ten
Massachusetts schools. The purpose is to see if their physical
environment at school or in the neighborhood affects the children’s
activity levels. The data includes active and sedentary periods by time
of day for 251 students in ten neighborhoods, measured by accelerometer
and diaries. The University of North Carolina researchers are
evaluating neighborhood features, such as density, mix of uses, and
completeness of the sidewalk network, using GIS data, aerial
photographic maps, and site visits. The same is being done for the
children’s schools, which includes collection of data about traits such
as the size of the campus and the presence of stairs. Among the
questions Cradock’s team will be asking is if the pedestrian
environment in the neighborhood is related to physical activity for
students on weekends, and if “active-school environments” are
associated with more activity during the school day. The database also
includes information about weather conditions; the researchers will see
if the neighborhood environment influences the choices of children to
walk or bike in varying weather conditions.