Sunday, February 18, 2007

Go Green! The Great Outdoors and Childhood Obesity

This is something I think all parents should be aware of, especially if they live in the city. Go to the park and getting outside does a body good! Kids and adults.


Go Green! The Great Outdoors and Childhood Obesity

By Betsy Lievense, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire) --
Good parents know it takes more than healthy eating habits to stave off childhood obesity. In fact, a recent study reveals environmental factors like population density, a household's proximity to grassy areas, and a household's distance to the nearest food retailer could have a substantial impact on a child's physical health.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis report kids who live near green parks and lawns in densely populated areas are less likely to be overweight than kids who live in areas with little vegetation. Experts suggest the difference may be because children who live near green spaces in population-dense areas could be more likely to engage in outdoor physical activities than their foliage-deprived counterparts. Study authors also write children who reside in sparsely populated areas far from brand name supermarkets may be at increased risk of becoming overweight.

"The obesity epidemic is a problem today not because of any single cause, like lack of green space or [too much] television time," Stephen Cook, M.D., a pediatrician at the University of Rochester in New York, told Ivanhoe. "I think it's due to a multitude of causes."

The new study was based on the body mass index readings of 7,334 children ages 3 to 18 in Indiana's Marion county. Any child with a BMI that exceeded the 85th percentile was considered at risk of becoming obese, and study authors report the majority of these children lived in densely populated areas with very little plant life. Researchers calculated each child's proximity to green spaces and food retailers using satellite imagery.

Dr. Cook said the next step in assessing environmental links to childhood obesity will be investigating the quality of green spaces. "If green spaces are riddled with needles on the ground and there's violence and drug traffickers walking through these parks, nobody's going to play there," he points out. He said families who are forced to keep children inside because they live in dangerous neighborhoods should limit the amount of television children watch. Instead, Dr. Cook recommended engaging children with indoor activities like dancing or listening to music. "Kids will usually search out innovative ways to play if given the opportunity," he said.

SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with Dr. Stephen Cook, M.D.; American Journal of Health Promotion; 2007;21

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