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Health Educ Res. 2008 Oct;23(5):870-9. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

Children's active free play in local neighborhoods: a behavioral mapping study.

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  • 1Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia.


Many Australian children are more sedentary than they should be, and almost one in five are currently overweight or obese. Some children may face difficulties finding opportunities to be active, having poor access to safe public open spaces or having low independent mobility limiting their access to places to play. This study aimed to examine children's access to places in their neighborhood for active free play and how these vary by age, sex and socioeconomic status (SES). Behavioral maps of the local neighborhood were completed by children (8-12 years) from five primary schools across different areas of Melbourne. Children living in low SES outer-urban neighborhoods had to travel greater distances to access local parks compared with those in inner-urban mid and high SES areas. One-third (32%) of children reported an independent mobility range of <100 m from home. In conclusion, for some children opportunities to engage in active free play in the local neighborhood may be limited due to lack of parks in close proximity to home and restricted independent mobility. It is important to collaborate with local governments, urban planners and community groups to improve access to neighborhood parks and to promote a sense of neighborhood safety.

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