Physical activity levels decrease as children move from childhood into adolescence, and most children and youth don’t engage in physical activity at recommended levels. The factors that influence this decline, however, aren’t well understood, and interventions to increase physical activity often aren’t informed by a clear understanding of these factors.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health recently examined variables that may influence physical activity in children and youth during the critical transition to adolescence. They found that factors operating at multiple levels, including the child, parents/home, school, social group, and community, influenced children’s physical activity during this period.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, used a prospective cohort design, and collected data on children and their families in fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. The researchers used growth curve analyses to examine associations between exposure variables measured at baseline and children’s physical activity across three observation periods.
The research team found that variables related to the child, parents/home, and community were positively associated with children’s physical activity as they transitioned from fifth to seventh grade. These variables included parent encouragement of physical activity, parental support for physical activity, child sports participation, parent’s report of the child’s physical activity level, the child’s time spent outdoors, social spaces for physical activity in the community, and the number of physical activity facilities that were proximal to the child’s home.Friday Letter Submission