The study found that physical activity was higher for girls who lived within a mile of parks and showed highest levels among girls who lived less than one-half mile from a park, said Dr. Diane Catellier, a study investigator and research associate professor of biostatistics in the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. The researchers found that girls only got about 114 minutes a week of intense physical activity outside of school hours, or about 16 minutes a day.
Dr. Deborah Cohen, a senior natural scientist at RAND Corporation and lead author of the study, said the U.S. surgeon general recommends that all children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. "We still have a long way to go in encouraging girls to be active." In the wake of growing national concern about increasing rates of obesity and health problems brought about by Americans' diets and sedentary lifestyles, the study findings could have implications for both males and females in other age groups as well, Catellier said.
"The study suggests that having access to parks in neighbourhoods and communities can make a significant difference in the level of physical activity girls get," Catellier said. "More research may show that the trend is also true for boys and others in a neighbourhood. We believe neighbourhood parks are particularly important for adolescents who are too young to drive."
The researchers found that parks with active amenities such as basketball courts, playgrounds and walking paths were associated with more physical activity than parks with passive amenities, such as picnic areas and lawn games. The study suggests that communities should make parks a higher priority, particularly ones with amenities like running tracks or walking paths, Catellier said. Previous studies have shown that girls become less physically active once they reach adolescence, and that girls are generally less physically active than boys, she said.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill