Infographic: Physical Activity and Recreation in Children in Communities of Color

Public parks represent key settings for promoting physical activity among children who are least likely to be active and most likely to be overweight or obese. Describing park use patterns among different racial and ethnic groups, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, can inform planning decisions on how to meet diverse recreation …

Infographic: Youth Physical Activity in Summer Patterns and Disparities

Adolescents have lower levels of physical activity (PA) and more rapid weight gain during summertime when they are not attending school. African American and Latino youth gain more weight in the summer than do youth from other racial or ethnic groups. Given disparities in summer weight gain, it is important …

Physical activity of school-age children at Play Streets in rural communities

Physical activity of school-age children at Play Streets in rural communities

By: M. Renée Umstattd Meyer, Christina N. Bridges Hamilton, Tyler Prochnow, Megan E. McClendon, Emily Wilkins, and Gabriel Benavidez from Baylor University; Tiffany D. Williams from Gramercy Group; Christiaan G. Abildso from West Virginia University; and Kimberly T. Arnold and Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins University

Child physical activity is important for many health outcomes, yet few children are active enough to realize these benefits. Children of color and those residing in low-income communities face even greater challenges to engaging in recommended levels of physical activity. Children play outside less than their parents did at the same age. Residents of rural communities may face obstacles to being active, including fewer parks, playgrounds, and programs and greater geographic dispersion.

Play Streets, temporary street closures that create safe places for children to play, could be an innovative solution to promote active play in rural communities. The purpose of this study was to examine physical activity of school-aged children during Play Streets that occurred in Summer 2017 in four low-income rural communities of different races and ethnicities.

Download the lay summary.

Results

Perceptions and participant characteristics

  • Most school-aged children who attended the Play Streets reported it was their first time.
  • Children agreed or strongly agreed that their town has friendly (safe/attractive) places to walk and/or bike.
  • Almost all children (96%) agreed or strongly agreed they felt safe at a Play Street.
  • Over half of the children (59%) said they were physically active in their free time quite often (5-6 times last week) or very often (7 or more times last week) during the last week before the Play Street.
    • Physical activity was described in this question as including sports or dance that make you sweat or make your legs feel tired, or games that make you breathe hard, like tag, skipping, running, climbing, and others.

Physical activity at Play Streets – Pedometer measured

  • A total of 372 elementary-to-middle school-aged children wore pedometers at the Play Streets to measure their physical activity, an average of 23 children at each Play Street. Children who wore pedometers were on average 9 years old and 55% were female.
  • Children wore the pedometers for an average of 93 minutes, with 42 steps per minute or 3,906 steps overall, while wearing the pedometer.
    • For context, existing studies show that children of varying ages accrue on average 918–1,943 total steps while in 15-29 minutes of recess.
  • There were no statistically significant differences in steps per minute between boys and girls.
  • When examining differences between boys and girls by age category, there were no significant differences between boys and girls for age groups other than 12-15 year-olds.
    • Boys aged 12-15 years recorded significantly greater steps per minute than girls and wore the pedometers longer on average.

Physical activity at Play Streets – Systematic observation measured

  • Roughly half of all children observed were physically active at the Play Street (49%).
    • There was no significant difference in boys versus girls on physical activity except for male teens who were more likely to be physically active than female teens.
    • Overall, children were also more likely to be physically active than teens.
  • Areas containing inflatables (e.g., bounce houses, inflatable obstacle courses) had the highest percentage of physically active children.
  • Male children were significantly more likely to bee observed in sport court and field activity areas than female children; although both males and females present in a sport court or field activity area were mostly active.

Findings from this lay summary are available in the full article, published in the Preventive Medicine:

Umstattd Meyer MR, Bridges Hamilton CN, Prochnow T, McClendon ME, Arnold KT, Wilkins E, et al. Come together, play, be active: Physical activity engagement of school-age children at Play Streets in four diverse rural communities in the U.S. Preventive Medicine. 2019, 129; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.105869.

Suggested Citation for Lay Summary:

Umstattd Meyer MR, Bridges Hamilton CN, et al. Physical activity of school-age children at Play Streets in rural communities. A Lay Summary. San Diego, CA: Physical Activity Research Center; Waco, TX: Baylor University; and Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2019. Available at: https://paresearchcenter.org/physical-activity-of-school-age-children-at-play-streets-in-rural-communities/.

This lay summary was made possible with funding from the Physical Activity Research Center. The research that generated the lay summary was led by Drs. Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and M. Renée Umstattd Meyer from Baylor University.

Recommended actions to increase physical activity of diverse and disadvantaged adolescents in the summer

Recommended actions to increase physical activity of diverse and disadvantaged adolescents in the summer

By: James F. Sallis and Terry L. Conway from University of California San Diego

Our research with 207 low-income adolescents from five racial/ethnic groups found that all adolescents, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex, were substantially less physically active and reported more screen time in the summer than the school year. Based on those findings, the recommendations below can be undertaken by multiple stakeholders to increase physical activity in the summer and ultimately improve health. Results from the study provide direction for promoting adolescent summer time physical activity generally and for tailoring actions for specific subgroups.

Download the lay summary.

Actions to Increase Physical Activity in the Summer

  • Target programs and resources to increase summer physical activity for American Indians, Latinos, and girls. These groups had the lowest physical activity during the summer and should be the highest priorities for programs and resources.
  • Adopt specific actions to reduce screen use in the summer. Screen time was higher in the summer than in the school year for almost every group of adolescents.
  • Create easily-accessible supervised summer programs so adolescents can be active with their peers. Adolescents enjoy being active with other youth. A surprising finding of the study was that enjoyment of physical activity was lower in the summer among all groups of youth.
  • Promote walking programs, provide targeted incentives or adopt activities that encourage walking. Walking was the most preferred physical activity across all subgroups and seasons.
  • Start running programs or exercise classes that are aimed at adolescents. Exercise and running were highly rated by all race/ethnic groups.
  • Promote water-based activities to provide a respite to the summer heat. Girls showed strong preferences for water play.
  • Provide safe and supervised activities throughout neighborhoods, rather than invest in expensive facilities. In and around the home were the most preferred places to be active, regardless of season, except for Latinos and non-Hispanics Whites. This preference might reflect a desire to be active with friends and relatives, the difficulty of arranging transportation to other places, or parental instructions to stay close to home.

Research findings from this lay summary are available in a research brief and the full article published in Preventive Medicine.

Suggested Citation for Lay Summary:

Sallis JF & Conway TL. Recommended Actions to Increase Physical Activity of Diverse and Disadvantaged Adolescents in the Summer. A Lay Summary. San Diego, CA: Physical Activity Research Center and University of California San Diego; 2019. Available at: https://paresearchcenter.org/recommended-actions-to-increase-physical-activity-of-diverse-and-disadvantaged-adolescents-in-the-summer/.

This lay summary was made possible with funding from the Physical Activity Research Center. The research that generated the lay summary was led by Drs. James F. Sallis and Terry L. Conway from the University of California San Diego.

Assessing physical activity in temporary spaces: Application of SOPARC/iSOPARC for Play Streets

Assessing physical activity in temporary spaces: Application of SOPARC/iSOPARC for Play Streets

By: M. Renée Umstattd Meyer, Tyler Prochnow, Christina N. Bridges Hamilton, Emily Wilkins, and Megan E. McClendon from Baylor University; Troy Carlton from Warner University; Thomas McKenzie from San Diego State University; and Kimberly T. Arnold and Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins University

The System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) is an observation tool used to measure how people are physically active in permanent spaces such as parks. The accuracy of SOPARC has not been explored in spaces such as Play Streets, which are temporary closures of streets or other public spaces so children can safely play and be physically active in the area.

In this study, researchers examined how SOPARC could be used to document physical activity at Play Streets and provided recommendations for future use in temporary spaces.

Download the lay summary.

Results

Using SOPARC or iSOPARC, a mobile application version of SOPARC available for iPads, at temporary spaces such as Play Streets is a reliable way to measure activity in a temporary space. By capturing physical activity among participants, this method can produce data to support the benefits of Play Streets, including documenting level of physical activity among children.

Implications

These results support the future use of iSOPARC and SOPARC in temporary spaces. While our research showed that inter-rater reliability was acceptable, there was room for improvement. Before using SOPARC or iSOPARC in temporary spaces, additional training that prepares researchers for the unique characteristics of temporary spaces could increase reliability and observer agreement.

  • For instance, when iSOPARC or SOPARC is conducted at permanent spaces, target areas for observation can be created before an observer needs to conduct observations.
  • Because Play Streets are temporary spaces, target areas could not be created until observers arrived at each Play Street.
  • Additionally, activities at Play Streets often could appear and/or disappear during the Play Street, and loose equipment such as jump ropes may have moved out of a target area leaving the area empty.
  • Changes like these occur more frequently and rapidly in temporary spaces, creating challenges for observation.

Findings from this lay summary are available in the full article, published in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport:

Umstattd Meyer MR, Prochnow T, Bridges CN, Carlton T, Wilkins E, Arnold KT, et al. Assessing physical activity in temporary spaces: Application of SOPARC / iSOPARC for Play Streets. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 2019; https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2019.1656793.

Suggested Citation for Lay Summary:

Umstattd Meyer MR, Prochnow T, et al. Assessing Physical Activity in Temporary Spaces: Application of SOPARC/iSOPARC for Play Streets. A Lay Summary. San Diego, CA: Physical Activity Research Center; Waco, TX: Baylor University; and Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2019. Available at: https://paresearchcenter.org/assessing-physical-activity-temporary-spaces-application-soparc-isoparc-play-streets/.

This lay summary was made possible with funding from the Physical Activity Research Center. The research that generated the lay summary was led by Drs. Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and M. Renée Umstattd Meyer from Baylor University.

Infographic: Rural Play Streets Guide

Infographic: Rural Play Streets Guide

Play Streets — place-based interventions that involve temporarily closing streets to create safe places and free opportunities for physical activity — are a great way to engage youth and families, get people active, and promote community connections.

The Guide to Implementing Play Streets in Rural Communities provides guidance and recommendations to community groups, schools, faith-based institutions, or other organizations, on how to plan and put on a Play Street in rural communities based on first-hand experience from community partners in rural Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Share with your community

This infographic highlights how Play Streets can provide families who live in rural communities access to safe places for their kids to be active.

We encourage you to download and share the infographic with your community partners and networks.

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Short animated GIF

Systematic review of how Play Streets impact opportunities for active play, physical activity, neighborhoods, and communities

Systematic review of how Play Streets impact opportunities for active play, physical activity, neighborhoods, and communities

Download the lay summary.
Download the lay summary.

By: M. Renée Umstattd Meyer and Christina N. Bridges Hamilton from Baylor University; Thomas L. Schmid from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Amelie A. Hecht and Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins University

Physical activity is important for promoting health and preventing obesity among children; however, many families and children live in communities that lack access to safe places for physical activity. Some communities have begun using Play Streets, which are temporary street closures that provide physical activity equipment and activities for children, to provide a safe place for play. This systematic literature review examined how Play Streets impact children, neighborhoods, and communities, while also documenting how Play Streets are implemented and evaluated. Six studies were identified from the peer review literature and included in this review. The findings presented here are based on these studies.

Download the lay summary.

Results

Impact on physical activity

Activities provided at Play Streets included hula-hoops, jump ropes, areas for dancing, bicycles, and balls. Three studies measured physical activity and all three found that children’s physical activity increased during Play Streets. Pedometers, which measure the number of steps taken, and accelerometers, which measure amount and intensity of physical activity, were used to measure physical activity in two of these studies.

  • One study compared children at Play Streets with a control group and found Play Streets increased children’s overall moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by 9.1 minutes per day and reduced their sedentary behavior by 8.6 minutes per day.
  • Both studies also surveyed parents and found that outdoor play and time spent playing outside after school generally increased as a result of Play Streets.

A third study, which used the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) to measure physical activity among all people at a Play Street, found 11.3% more children participated in vigorous activity when Play Streets were offered than they did when Play Streets were not offered. The study also found 12.1% more adults were sedentary during Play Streets, which the authors attributed to passive supervision of children at play.

Impact on safety

Five of the six studies examined found that Play Streets and similar interventions provided an active play option with reduced motorized traffic and provision of adult supervision. Five of the studies collected information from parents. One found that 71% of parents reported Play Streets provided safe and supervised outdoor play and 61% reported Play Streets provided a good opportunity for safe outdoor play.

Impact on neighborhoods and communities

Adults felt Play Streets increased a sense of community by strengthening relationships among neighbors and community members. This was confirmed by findings across several individual studies, including:

  • 94% of adults reported Play Streets strengthened their community.
  • 54% of parents reported Play Streets strengthened relationships with neighbors.
  • 61% of parents reported Play Streets were a good way for children to make new friends.
  • Most parents and children had positive feelings toward Play Streets.
    • 43% of parents identified social interaction as the primary reason they liked Play Streets.
    • At least 3 in 4 children reported they enjoyed Play Streets.

Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic findings

Three of the six studies included a majority of participants who were Hispanic or Latino. Four studies also included participants who were either of low socioeconomic status or lower income. The results from these studies show the potential impact of Play Streets in communities with fewer resources to be physically active.

Findings from this lay summary are available in the full article, published in the BMC Public Health:

Umstattd Meyer MR, Bridges CN, Schmid TL, Hecht AA, & Pollack Porter KM. Systematic review of how Play Streets impact opportunities for active play, physical activity, neighborhoods, and communities. BMC Public Health. 2019; 19: 335. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6609-4.

Suggested Citation for Lay Summary:

Umstattd Meyer MR, Bridges CN, et al. Systematic Review of How Play Streets Impact Opportunities for Active Play, Physical Activity, Neighborhoods, and Communities. A Lay Summary. San Diego, CA: Physical Activity Research Center; Waco, TX: Baylor University; and Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2019. Available at: https://paresearchcenter.org/systematic-review-of-how-play-streets-impact-opportunities-for-active-play-physical-activity-neighborhoods-and-communities/.

This lay summary was made possible with funding from the Physical Activity Research Center. The research that generated the lay summary was led by Drs. Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and M. Renée Umstattd Meyer from Baylor University.

Examining the Implementation of Play Streets: A Systematic Review of Reports and Publicly Available Information

Examining the Implementation of Play Streets: A Systematic Review of Reports and Publicly Available Information

Download the lay summary.
Download the lay summary.

By: Christina N. Bridges Hamilton, Tyler M. Prochnow, Emily C. Wilkins, and M. Renée Umstattd Meyer from Baylor University; and Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins University

Physical activity is linked with promoting health and preventing obesity among children, and active outdoor play is highly important for healthy child development. Yet children today do not play outside as much as their parents did. Safety concerns and communities that lack access to safe places for play contribute to this decline in physical activity and outdoor play. Some communities organize Play Streets—temporary street closures that provide equipment, games and a safe, supervised place to play—to help encourage more children and families to engage in active outdoor play. This study systematically identified and reviewed information about Play Streets from 36 sources of non-academic literature, such as websites and local reports, to learn about how Play Streets are typically organized.

Download the lay summary.

Results

Overall findings

The 36 non-academic sources reviewed provided important information about how Play Streets are put on, although the amount of detail available from each source significantly varied. The effectiveness of Play Streets in promoting physical activity or other outcomes was rarely mentioned. Outcomes that were mentioned mainly consisted of the number of people who attended. Non-academic literature on Play Streets could do more to encourage and help other communities implement Play Streets if they included more detail about the impacts of Play Streets and how they are organized.

Participation at Play Streets

Several sources (14 of 36) reported the number of people who participated in a Play Street. Nine sources described directly marketing Play Streets to children and families to encourage attendance. Five sources specifically held Play Streets in communities that lacked access to physical activity facilities, had low socioeconomic status residents, and/or had residents who were people of color. Information on race or ethnicity of the Play Street attendees was not reported by most of the sources.

Effectiveness of Play Streets

Fourteen of the sources included information about the effectiveness of Play Streets. Success of a Play Street was commonly measured by whether attendance increased with each subsequent Play Street held in a certain location. Five sources mentioned that Play Streets improved safety and relationships among neighbors, most often reported through interviews or focus groups. One source reported that Play Streets allowed more than 8,100 hours of physical activity among participating children; however, there was no information about how this was determined. Four sources surveyed participants to ask about their feelings toward Play Streets. Most of the people surveyed (more than 80%) felt Play Streets improved safety and wanted Play Streets to happen at least once per month.

Adoption of Play Streets

The adoption of Play Streets involves understanding what inspired people to host a Play Street. Twenty Play Streets started from partnerships between community advocacy groups and city departments, including those concerned with physical activity (e.g., departments of parks and recreation). Some sources reported they started Play Streets because other cities had them and multiple sources mentioned Play Streets in New York, which were initially founded by the Police Athletic League.

Characteristics of Play Streets

Seventeen sources described the types of equipment and activities available at Play Streets, including hula hoops, jump ropes, bicycles, and hopscotch. How the equipment was used and by whom was not reported by any of the sources. Thirteen of the sources reported the use of staff or volunteers to supervise Play Streets. Seven sources mentioned the cost of Play Streets, which ranged from $312 for a block party permit to $30,000 to host a Play Street with paid staff.

Continuation of Play Streets

Twenty-six sources mentioned Play Streets that happened more than once, and eight sources mentioned Play Streets that only happened once. Six sources mentioned that the people who organized Play Streets wanted to hold them more frequently and/or increase the number of people who participated in them. Fourteen of the sources mentioned Play Streets were only held during the summer months.

Findings from this lay summary are available in the full article, published in the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:

Bridges CN, Prochnow TM, Wilkins EC, Pollack Porter KM, & Umstattd Meyer MR. Examining the implementation of Play Streets: A systematic review of the grey literature. Journal of Public Health Management & Practice. 2019. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001015.

Suggested Citation for Lay Summary:

Bridges CN, Prochnow TM, et al. Examining the Implementation of Play Streets: A Systematic Review of Reports and Publicly Available Information. A Lay Summary. San Diego, CA: Physical Activity Research Center; Waco, TX: Baylor University; and Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2019. Available at: https://paresearchcenter.org/examining-the-implementation-of-play-streets-a-systematic-review-of-reports-and-publicly-available-information/.

This lay summary was made possible with funding from the Physical Activity Research Center. The research that generated the lay summary was led by Drs. Keshia M. Pollack Porter from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and M. Renée Umstattd Meyer from Baylor University.

Park use and activity among children in low-income racial and ethnic minority neighborhoods in New York City

Park use and activity among children in low-income racial and ethnic minority neighborhoods in New York City

Download the lay summary.
Download the lay summary.

By: Aaron Hipp, Claudia Alberico, Jing-Huei Huang, Elizabeth Mazak, and Myron F. Floyd from NC State University; and Dustin Fry and Gina S. Lovasi from Drexel University

Childhood obesity rates in the U.S. remain high: Nearly one in three young people is overweight or obese. Rates are significantly higher among African American and Hispanic youth than among white or Asian youth, and among youth from low-income families compared to those in higher-income families. These health disparities need further understanding and study so that leaders can recommend programs, environments, and policies to reduce them. Parks and playgrounds provide a free, publicly available resource for play and activity that may lead to a decrease in obesity. There have been few studies specifically examining park and playground use among children of color living in low-income neighborhoods. We conducted 79 site visits to New York City parks in 2017 to understand park and playground use in low-income communities of color.

Download the lay summary.

Results

NCSU Lay Summary Figure

Our team conducted 79 site visits in 20 different parks in New York City during the spring and summer of 2017. We observed over 16,500 kids ages 5 to 10 years old, referred to generally as children below. One-third were Asian-American, 40% Latino, almost 20% African American. Use was lower in the early afternoon hours, and highest in the early evening (6-7pm) and weekends. Kids were less active in the shade or when weather was warmer.

Areas of Activity

  • Swing sets presented more activity than all other areas of a park, while water/splash features presented the least active areas. Playgrounds generally were another area of high use.
  • Formal organization, such as sports practices or activities with a coach or parks employee, did not occur often in the parks. But, when these programs did occur there were significantly more children in these spaces than not.
  • When an organized activity was happening, more children were present, for example children participating in soccer practice. But overall, children were most likely to be found playing in informally organized areas. Across the 20 parks there were many more informal opportunities than formal opportunities.
  • Handball courts and baseball fields were the spaces least likely to have children.

Differences by race and ethnicity

  • African American children were less likely to be in parks right after school (3-5:30 pm) during the spring. Latino children had the highest probability of being in parks on weekend days.
  • Asian American and Latino children were more likely to be in areas with formal organized activities.
  • Most children were observed using swing sets and playgrounds. This was especially true for Latino and Asian American children, while African American children were most likely to be found on basketball courts.

Findings from this lay summary are available in the full article, published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening:

Marquet O, Hipp JA, Alberico C, Huang J-H, Fry D, Mazak E, et al. Park use preferences and physical activity among ethnic minority children in low-income neighborhoods in New York City. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 2019; 38: 346-353. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2019.01.018.

Suggested Citation for Lay Summary:

Marquet O, Hipp JA, et al. Park Use and Activity among Children in Low-Income Racial and Ethnic Minority Neighborhoods in New York City. A Lay Summary. San Diego, CA: Physical Activity Research Center and Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University; 2019. Available at: https://paresearchcenter.org/park-use-and-activity-among-children-in-low-income-racial-and-ethnic-minority-neighborhoods-in-new-york-city/.

This lay summary was made possible with funding from the Physical Activity Research Center. The research that generated the lay summary was led by Drs. Myron F. Floyd and J. Aaron Hipp from North Carolina State University.