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Engineering children's physical activity : making active choices easy

Nelson, N. and Woods, C. (2007) Engineering children's physical activity : making active choices easy. Proceedings of the ICE - Municipal Engineer, 160 (2). pp. 103-109. ISSN 0965-0903

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Abstract

Regular participation in physical activity provides physical, social and mental benefits to young peoples' health and well-being; however, there is increasing concern that large numbers of children and adolescents are doing insufficient physical activity to obtain health benefits. The physical environment is a major factor in providing opportunities to be physically active. In order to plan, design and manage cities that make children happy and safe, it is paramount to consider how children experience their environment, and which specific features of the physical environment are related to their physical activity and consequently their health. This review proposes that physical activity has been engineered out of the daily lives of children through transportation systems, land-use patterns and neighbourhood designs that inhibit play and walking or cycling to school. Research suggests that changing the built environment is a promising strategy in fighting youth inactivity. This will be best achieved through the identification of features of the engineered environment that support or inhibit physical activity. Intervention is required through environmental, policy and legislative changes to make active choices easy.