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December 2023
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Green Acres Really Is the Place to Be

Study: Park Populated Places Breed Active Kids

Kids walking home from school

Kids walking home from school

Fans of Eva Gabor, I have news for you:  It turns out Green Acres really is “the place to be.”

The eponymous 1965 television sitcom aired a wee bit before my time, but as I understand it, “Green Acres” centered on the life of two city slickers who move from the hustle and bustle of urban dwellings to the idyllic country side.

There are pluses and minuses to urban and rural living; Gabor’s character Lisa Douglas and Eddie Albert’s character Oliver illustrated this throughout the series’ six-year run, I’m sure. But from the standpoint of physical activity, one thing’s certain:  living in the countryside breeds more active lifestyles than urban settings, according to a study reported by the American Heart Association.

Now, this might come off as sounding obvious.  After all, if there’s more room to move around, then there’s obviously more opportunity to take advantage of all those “wide open spaces,” as the Dixie Chicks might say (sorry, I’m doing my best to channel a country-livin’ lifestyle despite my urban dwelling background).  But more and more parks and recreational activities are being built in cities.  In fact, in Boston, officials have dedicated millions of dollars to building more bicycle pathways to curb the prevalence of traffic jams.  And as I can attest, New York City streets are always loaded with people walking to and from their destinations – whether it’s in the dead of winter or in the life of spring.

Nevertheless, farm livin’ is best for healthy, active lifestyles – at least according to researchers from the University of Montreal and their study that looked into the itinerancy rates of children born to at least one obese parent. 

The cleverly titled “QUALITY” study – an acronym for the Quebec Adipose and Lifestyle Investigation in Youth – followed 600 kids from 300 families.  The aim was to identify what biological and environmental factors contributed to excess weight in children (the rate of childhood obesity has increased three fold since the late 1980s).

One of the environmental factors they looked into was park availability and if availability (availability meaning how many parks there were, how close they were to the kids’ schools and homes) translated into more active lifestyles. 

What they found was that for every park that was located within one half-mile of kids’ homes, they were that much more likely to walk to and from school.

(This is a classic example of environment influencing behavior – for all you nature vs. nurture buffs!).

For example, among girls, park availability made them 60 percent more likely to engage in what the researchers call “purpose driven” walking; among boys, they were 50 percent more likely to “leisure walk.”

Again, this is a classic case of environment influencing behavior.  Kids typically aren’t as concerned with health, particularly today with the “rise of the machines” (iPods, video games, PCs, and Segways).  But given the opportunity, they’ll take advantage.

Of course, not everyone has this opportunity; responsibilities and job limitations often, well, limit the ability to move to rural locales.  If this is the case, do your best to look for areas in the city that are near to parks and recreational facilities.  More and more cities are dedicating funds to sidewalks and bike pathway construction to curb pollution and untie traffic back-ups. 

Perhaps these University of Montreal researchers will conduct a future study on city dwelling to see if cities’ recent renovations have borne fruit.

In the meantime, I guess the old cliché of “location, location, location,” really does matter, particularly when it comes to physical activity.

Science Daily

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  5. Walk to Lower Blood Pressure

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