Physical inactivity is a major contributing factor to the
obesity epidemic, and a large portion of the adolescent population in
the United States doesn't meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily vigorous
A study conducted by LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health
is the first to demonstrate that parents who are concerned about their
neighborhoods restrict their children's outdoor play. The study is
published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
‘Parents who do not trust their neighbors or feel they have no control over neighborhood problems are more likely to restrict their child's outdoor play.’
The LSU Health New Orleans team designed the study to identify factors that may reduce physical activity among adolescents.
Senior author Melinda Sothern, Research Professor at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health, said,
"We were interested in exploring some of the possible reasons."
The research team measured parents/guardians' and adolescent
participants' responses to a questionnaire, and they evaluated
neighborhood characteristics. Adolescents who are free to play outdoors
and travel actively without adult supervision accumulate more physical
activity than those who are not; therefore understanding whether
parental perceptions of their neighborhood impact physical
activity-related parenting behaviors may be crucial to improving overall
activity among adolescents.
"Parents who do not trust their neighbors or feel they have no
control over neighborhood problems were more likely to restrict their
child's outdoor play," says lead author Maura Kepper, a
postdoctoral researcher at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public
In this small study, though, the self-reported responses did not
seem to indicate that the parents' concerns altered their children's
physical activity levels. The role of the physical environment was not
clear, yet this exploratory study illustrates the need for further
research in larger, more diverse samples of children and adolescents.
"Furthermore, we found that the neighborhood physical
environment, such as the presence of graffiti and blighted property in
the neighborhood, worsened the problem," says Kepper, who now also has
an appointment at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
child's ability to achieve the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical
activity may be limited. This research is an important first step to
identifying targets for community-based programs that seek to facilitate
trust and control among neighbors that is needed to increase outdoor
play among children and adolescents, especially within poor physical