Getting Middle-School Students Up and Moving: What's the Role of School and Neighborhood Environments...and the Weather

Studying the effect of neighborhood and school environments on youth physical activity levels

Researchers at the Harvard Prevention Research Center at Harvard University School of Public Health examined how physical and social environments of schools and neighborhoods shape routine physical activities of students attending 10 middle schools in the Boston area. They also analyzed the effect of weather conditions on student physical activity.

Key Findings:

  • Larger school campuses, school buildings and play areas per enrolled student were associated with increased physical activity during the school day.
  • Higher temperature on the weekends is associated with increased physical activity on the weekends.
  • Higher density of land use in neighborhoods around schools is associated with increased physical activity on weekends. Density of use is the number and mix of resources that students value, such as stores, libraries or service organizations.

This project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Active Living Research program. The program funds research that improves knowledge and policies regarding ways that environmental factors affect physical activity, particularly for children.

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