A new study has found that kids living in greener neighbourhoods are more active.
Researchers from Universite de Montreal, Canada have shown that the presence of nearby parks was strongly associated with girls walking to school and boys engaging in leisure walking.
For every additional park located within a half mile of their home, researchers found, the likelihood of walking to school more than doubled among girls and leisure walking by boys increased by 60 percent.
"There was a strong association between walking and the number of nearby public open recreational spaces, including neighborhood parks, playgrounds and sports fields," said Tracie A. Barnett, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and Université de Montréal in Montreal, Canada.
"We were able to relate the proximity and number of parks to how often children aged 8-10 years walked. This is important because active transportation is a promising public health strategy for increasing overall physical activity, and for helping to curb the obesity epidemic.
"We know that walking to school has been decreasing steadily for the past 30 years; concurrent increases in overweight and obesity suggest that these two phenomena may be linked," she added.
For the analysis, the researchers looked at 600 kids enrolled into the Quebec Adipose and Lifestyle Investigation in Youth (QUALITY) study.
Researchers examined the relationship between park availability and proximity, and walking. All the children were considered at high risk for future obesity because at least one of their parents was obese.
"Obesity in children and adolescents has tripled in the past 20 or so years," Barnett said.
"Although obesity has many causes, this relatively sudden and steep increase suggests that the drivers of the obesity epidemic are largely environmental rather than biological or genetic in nature.
"Parks may benefit girls and boys differently, but are associated with increased overall walking for both.
"In the past few decades we have become more sedentary due to the increased use of labor-saving devices, motorized transportation, television and computers.
"In addition, children are spending more time inside, yet we know that spending time outdoors is an important determinant of activity," she added.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Conference on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism.