Counteracting Sedentary Lives (page 2)
Thirty years ago, children spent the bulk of their recreational time outdoors, engaged in rich physical play using sidewalks, streets, playgrounds, parks, greenways, industrial facilities, and all manner of spaces "left over" during the urbanization process (Moore, 1986, 1978). The environment of contemporary childhood has changed dramatically. High levels of fast moving traffic and urban in-fill have colonized city streets and vacant lots-the traditional habitats of childhood. Public playgrounds and schoolyards consist of standardized commercial equipment where safety rather than play value is the dominant criterion (Moore, 1989). School recess has become curtailed or abandoned (http://www.ipausa.org/recess.htm ), although schoolgrounds can be designed as major motivators of physical activity (Moore & Wong, 1997). Small neighborhood parks, within walking or biking distance from home, are no longer being provided because they are more expensive to maintain per acre than large, drive-to, multi-use parks. Many parents no longer allow their children to play outdoors unsupervised (Moore, 1997).
For these and other reasons the locus of children's everyday life has dramatically shifted from outdoors to indoors. Negative health consequences have become severe. A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) presents a global alert for all countries regarding the deterioration of children's physical health resulting from environmental lifestyle changes (http://www.who.int/hpr/physactiv/sedentary.lifestyle2.shtml ).
The prevalence of overweight children is particularly acute in the United States, now reaching beyond 15% among children six to nineteen years old and more than10% even among two-to-five-year-olds (Ogden et a. 2002).
How can these negative health trends be reversed? Research has shown that time spent outdoors is an environmental determinant that most strongly correlates with increased physical activity and fitness in children (Sallis et al., 2003; Moore, L. et al. 2003; Finn et al., 2002).
Prior to adolescence, children relate to the world through their senses and bodily movement, which is strongly motivated by the diversity and freedom of outdoor environments. This is especially true of the "close-by nature" green environments of everyday life (Kuo & Sullivan, 2002; Wells, 2000). These new and important empirical research findings suggest a powerful strategy to counteract the childhood fitness crisis by creating outdoor, green environments that are so attractive that children will spend longer periods of time outside, engaged in higher levels of physical activity in the fresh air and sunlight (Rivkin, 2000). However, the environment of multitudes of children (in childcare centers, schools, and neighborhoods) is not green but gray, uninviting to go outside, and unmotivating for physical activity. To address this issue, community environmental design (buildings and landscape) is a crucial intervention strategy to change environments and therefore behavior. To be successful, the design process must engage the participation of the major stakeholders and beneficiary user groups.
The problem of sedentary lifestyles will not be solved by modest changes to the status quo. Entirely new design solutions must be developed to help create a dramatically different built environment. The changes must be large enough to help evolve a new active lifestyle culture. To succeed in this task, urban designers, landscape architects, and architects will need to collaborate with the professionals from other fields (public health; parks, recreation and leisure; education; traffic engineering, etc.), who share a deep commitment to systemic change.
Finn, K., Johannsen, N., & Specker, B. (2002). Factors Associated with Physical Activity in Preschool Children. The Journal of Pediatrics 140(1): 81-85.
Kuo, F. & Sullivan, W. 2001. Aggression and Violence in the Inner City: Effects of Environment via Mental Fatigue. Environment and Behavior Vol. 33(4): 543-571. Sage Publications.
Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., & Sullivan, W.C. (2001). Coping with ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behavior Vol. 33(1): 54-77. Sage Publications, Inc.
Moore, L., Di Gao, A., Bradlee, L., Cupples, A., Sundarajan-Ramamurti, Proctor, M., Hood, M., Singer, M., Ellison, C.(2003).Does Early Physical Activity Predict Body Fat Change throughout Childhood? Preventive Medicine 37, 10-17.
Moore, R. & Young, D. 1978. Childhood Outdoors: Toward a Social Ecology of the Landscape. In Altman, I. & Wohlwill, J (Eds.). Children and the Environment. New York: Plenum Press.
Moore, R. 1987. Streets as Playgrounds. Public Streets for Public Use. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold
Moore, R. 1989. Playgrounds at the Crossroads: Policy and Action Research Needed to Ensure a Viable Future for Public Playgrounds in the US. In Altman, I. and Zube, E. (Eds). Public Spaces and Places. New York: Plenum.
Moore, R. & Wong, H. 1997. Natural Learning: Rediscovering Nature's Way of Teaching. Berkeley, CA: MIG Communications.
Moore, R. 1997. The Need for Nature: A Childhood Right. Social Justice 24(3):203-220.
Ogden, C., Flegal, K., Carroll, M., & Johnson, C. (2002). Prevalence and Trends in Overweight among US Children and Adolescents, 1999-2000. Journal of the American Medical Association 288(14): 1728-1732.
Rivkin, M. 2000. Outdoor Experiences for Young Children. ERIC/CRESS. http://www.ael.org/eric/page.cfm?&scope=oe&id=237&pub=x
Sallis. J., McKenzie , T., Conway, T., Elder, J., Prochaska, J., Brown, M.,. Zive, M., Marshall, S., Alcaraz, J. 2003. Environmental Interventions for Eating and Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Middle Schools. American Journal of Preventive Medicines. 2003;24(3).
Wells, N. 2000. At Home with Nature: Effects of "Greenness" on Children's Cognitive Functioning. Environment and Behavior 32(6): 775-795.
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