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Research finds that active travel and street play are the key to increasing children’s physical activity levels

Image illustrating street play initiative

5 March 2015

Increasing the amount of time young people spend outdoors through active travel and street play is the focus of a University of Bristol national conference aiming to promote low-cost ways to improve children’s physical activity levels.

The ‘Outdoors and active: delivering public health outcomes by increasing children’s outdoor play and active travel’ [5 Mar] conference will be attended by representatives from organisations who have responsibility for changing behaviours and activity levels in young people.

Dr Angie Page and Professor Ashley Cooper at the University of Bristol will present interim findings from two projects shown to be successful in monitoring and increasing children’s active time outdoors.

The Personal and Environmental Associations with Children’s Health (PEACH) project, funded by the World Cancer Research Fund, used personal GPS receivers to monitor the physical activity levels of 1,307 children over eight years at different stages of school. It aimed to find out how active children are in relation to the type of environment they are in and the longer-term impact on health outcomes including obesity.

The Street Play project, funded by the Department of Health, aimed to determine how much activity children get while outdoors during temporary street closures after school hours. Interim results found that during these street play closures children spent 70 per cent of the time outdoors and 30 per cent of their time taking part in moderate to vigorous physical activity.  The Street Play Project is led by Play England in partnership with Playing Out CIC, London Play and University of Bristol.

Dr Angie Page, Reader in Exercise and Health Sciences, Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Bristol, said: “Our research found children are three to five times more active outdoors than indoors so increasing the amount of time they spend outdoors through active travel and street play is key in helping them maintain physical activity levels.

“This conference presents a great opportunity for us to share some of our results and ideas on how ‘Street Play’ and “Active Travel” projects could be widened. All the attendees are in a position to promote time outdoors and we hope the day will give them inspiration, evidence and the tools they need.”

During the event, attendees will be able to hear the latest evidence, share case studies and new ideas to help them develop practical guidance on the commissioning, delivery, and evaluation of outdoor-led activity initiatives. They will also have the opportunity to listen to a keynote talk presented by Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England (PHE) and a panel discussion.

Conference attendees include representatives from NICE, the World Cancer Research Fund, Department of Health, Playing Out CIC, Sustrans, London Play, Bristol City Council and Play England.

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