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Green spaces keep children more active: Study
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Kids who live near green spaces seem to be more physically active and might be more unlikely to be obese, a new study has found.

For every part within a half-mile (0.8-kilometer) of home, a girl's likelihood of walking to school doubled and a boy's odds of taking part in leisure walking increased by 60 percent, according to the study presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) conference in Palm Harbor, Florida last week. A copy of the study was made available to Xinhua on Monday.

Researchers from Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and University of Montreal in Canada collected data from 300 families and more than 600 children who took part in a study of weight and cardiometabolic risk in kids.

Children in the study were all considered at a high risk for obesity because at least one parent already was obese. The researchers said that the findings were consistent even when factoring in family income and average level of education in the neighborhood, a measure of economic advantage.

There was a strong association between walking and the number of nearby public open recreational spaces, including neighborhood parks, playgrounds and sports fields, the researchers said in a press release issued by the AHA.

The researchers were able to relate the proximity and number of parks to how often children aged 8 to 10 years walked, said the release.

The finding "is important because active transportation is a promising public health strategy for increasing overall physical activity, and for helping to curb the obesity epidemic," said the release.

An increase in obesity in children and adolescents is thought to be more environmental than biological, according to the release.

"In the past few decades, we have become more sedentary due to the increased use of labor-saving devices, motorized transportation, television and computers," said the release.

"In future urban improvements, consideration must be given to parks, outdoor recreational areas and walking or cycling infrastructure in order to increase active living. Equally important is that the parks and recreational areas are well maintained and are safe," it added.

According to an AHA statement issued in June, "walkable" neighborhoods -- featuring sidewalks and places for physical activity -- can make it easier for people to get daily exercise and can help fight the climbing obesity rates.

(Xinhua News Agency March 17, 2009)

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