Category Archives: Physical Activity

The Nonconscious Mind: Helping or Hindering Physically Active Leisure?

My passion for understanding leisure behaviour means that I devote most of my research activities and academic reading attention to investigating and evaluating reasons why people do what they do during their leisure time. A few months ago, I came across an article written by a the social psychologists in our field (Seppo Iso-Ahola) that prompted me to think in a new way about the why we do what we do during our leisure time, or perhaps more accurately, why we do not do the things during our leisure time that might offer us the most satisfaction. Specifically, Iso-Ahola (2015) brought together research to discuss the role of the conscious and nonconscious mind in leisure behaviour.

Iso-Ahola (2015) set the stage for his discussion by wondering, quite simply, why some people spend 5 hours a day watching television – an activity research has found to leave people depleted and in the same or worse mood state than before they started watching (Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002) while others are more active or engaged in challenging activities – which research indicates provides people with the most enjoyment from (Abuhamdeh & Csikszentmihalyi, 2012) during their available leisure time. He offers two possible explanations for why people do what they do: “(1) people are rational thinkers who carefully deliberate over choices and finally opt for what they think is best for them; they are cognitive decision-makers in accord with “slow” thinking. (2) Alternatively, their behavioral engagement is driven by automatic processes prompted nonconsciously by situational cues” (p. 299).

Fast versus Slow Thinking

Research suggests that we are “fast” thinkers most of the time and that our decisions or responses to situations are most often a result of intuitive, impulsive, automatic or nonconscious thinking (Kahneman, 2011) or “behavioural impulses” (Bargh & Morsella, 2008, p. 77). The behavioural impulses are derived from four sources: evolved motives and preferences, cultural norms and values,
past experiences in similar situations, and what other people are doing in the same situation
at a given time. Therefore, our impulses or fast thinking has roots in our everyday social lives and the stimulus cues in our environment.

The default system of fast thinking leads us toward choosing the easier or less straining leisure activities. This, then, can hinder us from choosing demanding behaviours like exercise especially when it is not part of our routine. But, the conscious, slow-thinking mind can still exert strong influence and even override the nonconscious mind (Baumeister, Masicampo, & Vohs, 2011). However, given the low rates of participation in physical activity and sport, there are clearly some challenges in activating the conscious, slow-thinking mind to engage in the more demanding leisure behaviour or exercise. I found the research related to self-control resources to be particularly insightful in understanding this further.

Self-Control Resources, The Conscious Mind, and Leisure Behaviours

Iso-Ahola (2015) explains that for many people work can be cognitively and/or physically straining or demanding. At work, we exert self-control throughout the day (e.g., focus on tasks, attend meeting we may not wish to; continue with a repetitive task that may bore or tire us; respond politely to rude customers). Work tasks that demand we exercise self-control can use up or deplete our limited self-control resources. This means we have few resources to resist the temptation of non-demanding activities when we get home and have opportunities for leisure. The depleted self-control resources plus the stimulus-cues such as television sets lead to the triggering of our nonconscious impulses that direct our behaviour – we sit and watch television. Other behaviours such as going for a walk or a fitness class or working on a challenging DIY project demand physical or cognitive effort and deliberate thinking. Simple behaviours (watching TV) become driven by the nonconscious mind. More complex behaviours (going to a fitness class), require the drive of the conscious mind.

Another perspective related to the notion of self-control is that leisure does not require us to self-regulate in the way that work and other demanding daily life tasks may. Therefore, once we have completed demanding tasks that required self-control, we feel justified in relaxing or rewarding ourselves (Inzlicht & Schmeichel, 2012). There is a motivational shift away from regulation and self-control toward gratification instead.

The question for me, then, became: Can more challenging leisure activities that could potentially be more satisfying and beneficial be regulated or routinized by situational cues (in the same way TV sets act as situational cues)?

Priming for Complex Leisure Behaviours

Research has suggested that conscious priming is needed to modify most complex behaviours, but that this is particularly the case with exercise behaviours (Iso-Ahola & Miller, 2016). Situational cues (like your pair of sneakers) can drive more demanding behaviour, but only after the behaviour has been repeated over a long period of time (Iso-Ahola, 2015). Nonconscious priming can occur after years of repeated performance, in part, because a habit has formed. Prior to something becoming a habit, the behaviour requires and benefits from conscious priming.

One strategy for conscious priming is having individuals self-affirm their core values and goals related to complex behaviours. This has been effective in countering self-regulatory exhaustion (ego depletion) and failures to engage in the demanding behaviour (Inzlicht & Schmeichel, 2012). For example, if one of your overarching goals is to be healthy and fit and you are highly committed to that goal, priming that goal (e.g., reminding yourself; writing about it) may shield you from conflicting goals (e.g., to relax) that may interfere with you engaging in your physical activity behaviour.

Responding to Self-Control Influences

The idea that we experience a depletion in self-control resources after a work day resonated with me. My work is mentally demanding. At the end of the day, I often sink into the couch and turn on the TV.  I then begin engaging in the “should” game – “I should clean the house,” “I should go for a walk,” and “I should read or knit or do anything but watch TV”. The “should-ing” is followed by the rationalizations to resolve the dissonance: “I deserve/need to relax”. And, as Iso-Ahola (2015) suggests, I frequently am successful in weaken any bit of motivation or commitment I had to more complex, demanding leisure behaviours.

I decided to experiment with the notion of depleted resources a little bit. What would happen if I made the decision to engage in physical activity before the work day started. Clearly, this is not a novel idea – many, many people do this. However, I wanted to implement this based on this new information I had that helped me understand why leaving exercising until the end of day resulted in my irregular involvement. As an adult, exercise has been neither a habit nor a simple behaviour. Therefore, engaging in physical activity takes conscious, deliberate thinking – something, according to Iso-Ahola (2015), I would theoretically have more resources for before I engaged in a full work day. Anecdotally, after a month of experimenting with this, I have found that I have the mental energy to convince myself to head to the treadmill first thing in the morning. Hardly scientific research, but I found it personally interesting how this one change was able to help me engage, more regularly, in a demanding leisure behaviour.

The research related to priming has suggested that writing your physical activity goals regularly or writing about what physical activity means in your life can help prime the behaviour (Inzlicht & Schmeichel, 2012). Therefore, it is possible that journaling about exercise could be effective – even writing a sentence or two each day about goals could activate awareness and conscious thinking. Something else to try if you need to activate your conscious, slow thinking mind.

Conclusion

It seems that the nonconscious mind can be help us to engage in demanding leisure activities such as physical activity…if that behaviour is a habit and part of our routine. Prior to it becoming a habit, it is a behaviour that requires us to activate our conscious mind. That may be easier to do prior to a long work day or it could be supported by setting goals and reminding oneself of the goals (e.g., to be physically active 4 times a week for 60 minutes) and how those goals relate to one’s core values (e.g., being healthy).

References

Abuhamdeh, S., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2012). The importance of challenge for the enjoyment, of intrinsically motivated, goal directed activities. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(3), 317–330.

Bargh, J. A., & Morsella, E. (2008). The unconscious mind. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 73–79.

Baumeister, R. F., Masicampo, E., & Vohs, K. (2011). Do conscious thoughts cause behavior? Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 331–361.

Inzlicht, M., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2012). What is ego depletion? Toward a mechanistic revision of the resource model of self-control. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(5), 450-463.

Iso-Ahola, S. (2013). Exercise: Why it is a challenge for both the nonconscious and conscious mind.
Review of General Psychology, 17, 93–110.

Iso-Ahola, S. E. (2015). Conscious versus nonconscious mind and leisure. Leisure Sciences, 37(4), 289-310.

Iso-Ahola, S. E., & Miller, M. W. (2016). Contextual priming of a complex behavior: Exercise. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 3(3), 258-269.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrer, Straus, and Girox.

Kubey, R., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Television addiction. Scientific American, 286(2), 74-81.

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From Play Structures to iPads: What’s Happening to Children’s Play Spaces?

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a news story about a transformed play space at the Guildford Town Centre (a mall) in Surrey, British Columbia. The mall play space went from being a place where kids could run around, climb, and go down a slide, to a place where children can engage in interactive play with…iPads. Parents are not happy, and I don’t blame them. As someone concerned with youth physical activity levels as well as positive youth development, I share some of the same concerns parents do.

iPads for interactive play area

New indoor “interactive play park” at Guildford Town Centre

Mall Response

“More active play and can result in children being hurt”: The mall response was that in their experience providing slides and things for climbing leads to much more active play and, apparently, children being hurt. It seems that the mall is just another example of how risk is being systematically eliminated from children’s play areas. Adults seem so concerned for children’s safety that they feel almost compelled to eliminate any potential sources of danger. Playgrounds are disappearing or are behaviours within them are strictly regulated. Last year, a story surfaced about a New York middle that school banned hard balls like soccer and footballs during recess and would not allow tag to be played without adult supervision citing these activities as dangerous. Other schools are taking out swings or banning games of tag – also perceiving these as potentially dangerous activities. It seems adult fear and anxiety about child safety (and perhaps insurance company’s concerns over liability) is changing the nature of the experience of childhood… in neighbourhoods, on playgrounds, and now, it seems, at the mall play space.

“We’re pleased to offer a quiet play environment for children”: There are lots of times and places where children are expected to be “quiet” – libraries, nap time at day care, waiting rooms at the doctors offices, during the school day, while a younger sibling is sleeping, and while adults are having a conversation and have asked not to be interrupted. Play areas and playgrounds are normally designed to allow children to let of steam and to have fun – to shriek with joy and to laugh and yell, “Hey Mom/Dad… look at me”. This would be especially true, I would think, when toddlers and younger children are out at the mall with a parent. In stores, children are told to not touch and to keep their voices down (or at least this is often what I see and overhear). Some children are in carts or strollers – somewhat confined while their parents try to complete their errands without having to worry that their child will wander away if something catches their eye. The play area is a place parents can take their child to offer him/her a break from parental errands and the restrictions of a stroller or cart. So, personally, I do not see the value or even the logic of offering “a quiet play environment”. If parents want a quiet play environment for their child, I’m sure they’d head to the library or home, but not to the mall. I can imagine that for some children, the mall is a very stimulating place and perhaps there is a need for a quiet space or quiet time after being there, but in reading articles and seeing news clips of parents’ reaction – a “quiet environment” does not seem to be what parents or children need or want.

What Bothers Me Most About the iPad Play Area

Already too much screen time: The youngest generation of youth – digital natives as they are sometimes called – already spend a significant portion of their time in front of a screen consuming media. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average amount of screen time for kids is seven hours per day. The Academy recommends that children under the age of 2 consume NO television or entertainment media because children’s brains develop best by interacting with people, not screens. Why would we want to replicate an experience children could have at home in a public play space? In a society where we are regularly getting failing grades on children’s physical activity levels (Active Healthy Kids Canada, 2012; 2014), why would we want to turn an active play space into a screen-dependent one?

The importance of learning to manage risk: The spread of technology and the fact that it is being designed to engage children from infancy has changed the landscape of childhood has contributed to children spending less time exploring their worlds. Add to that, parents’ anxiety about stranger danger and injuries (Brockman, Jago, & Fox, 2011; Gill, 2007), which is in part a result of messages parents receive in the media and even from public health agencies (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2012a; 2012b) about safety during play, the current generation of children are not given the chance to take risks. Canadian researchers who recently completed a study on children’s play (Alexander, Frohlick, & Fusco, 2014) argue that risk taking is an integral part of children’s play preferences and supports their development. Through risk taking, children get to challenge their abilities and move forward in their development; they explore limits; and they and learn to manage risks and deal with uncertainty – all of which are important for their development into adults who can function in a world that has risks.

Will Change Come?

Alas, despite parents expressing outrage about the Guildford Mall play space – arguing that the play area is not fun for their child, arguing that this doesn’t support the idea that parents are supposed to be helping their children to be more active, and arguing that the installed iPads offer nothing unique from an experience they could offer at home – the mall stands by its decision. Perhaps it is too much to expect that a commercial organization (concerned mainly with making money) might seek to offer something that supported children in moving their bodies and interacting with other children. However, for those consumers who are parents and to whom the play area is important… this decision could hurt the traffic at the mall and retailers bottom line.

References and Further Reading:

Active Healthy Kids Canada. (2012). Is active play extinct? Report card on physical activity for children and youth. Toronto, ON, Canada: Author.

Active Healthy Kids Canada. (2014). Is Canada in the running? Report card on physical activity for children and youth. Toronto, ON, Canada: Author.

Alexander, S. A., Frohlich, K. L., & Fusco, C. (2014 – online first). Problematizing “play-for-health” discourses through children’s photo-elicited narratives. Qualitative Health Research, doi: 1049732314546753.

Brockman, R., Fox, K. R., & Jago, R. (2011). What is the meaning and nature of active play for today’s children in the UK? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8(15), 1–7.

Future Foundation. (2006). The changing face of parenting: Professional parenting, information and healthcare. London: Future Foundation.

Gill, T. (2007). No fear: Growing up in a risk averse society. London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2012a). Funding to prevent injuries in outdoor play spaces: Fact sheet.

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2012b). The Government of Canada supports safe outdoor play spaces.

Rosen, H. (2014, March 19). The overprotected kid. The Atlantic.

 

 

Dogs and Leisure: Celebrating National Dog Day

It’s National Dog Day and being a dog owner, how could I possibly let the day go without a post? It would not seem right.

Over the last month or so, I’ve had the opportunity to think quite intensely about the role of pets in people’s lives. On July 11th, my sister said goodbye to the family dog of 12 years, Monty. Many days since that goodbye, she and her family have been sharing Monty stories and reliving the joy that he brought to their lives. Of course dogs are work and sometimes an inconvenience, but they also can enhance even the simplest of leisure experiences such as watching a movie (can’t pass up those dog snuggles) and walking in your neighbourhood. They can encourage leisure behaviour such as playing with pets or getting out to walk your dog if you’re not someone who normally walks. Dogs can also help create fabulous memories on vacation (like the time Monty stepped off the wharf thinking the green algae was grass – thankfully, he had on a doggie life jacket). As I think about Monty and other dogs (including my own dog, Chuckie) who have enhanced my life and the lives of friends, I wanted to take some time to share the research on dogs and leisure.

pets and leisure

Monty as a puppy. He seemed to prefer playing with his food at this particular stage.

Despite the rise in dog ownership over the last 30 years in North America, there is not an overwhelming amount of research on the topic of dogs and leisure. What does exist in terms of research suggests that there are considerable mental and physical health benefits to having a dog and that dogs do create and enhance the leisure experiences of their owners. This is likely not a surprise to dog owners.

Happiness and Dogs

Research has found that having a dog can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and increase an individual’s sense of security and happiness (Sable, 1995). Dogs can provide companionship throughout the life cycle – for single adults, empty nesters, and children without siblings (Anderson, 2008; Hodgson & Darling, 2011). The interaction children have while caring for and playing with their dog can increase children’s attachment and in turn, their psychological health (Salmon & Timperio, 2011). Through leisure, children and adults can let go of pent up frustrations and stress emotions and playing with dogs is one particular leisure activity that allows for this opportunity. Although there is a lack of academic research on it, I have been more aware recently of dogs being calming companions for individuals who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dogs Promote Social Contact

Dogs encourage owners to engage in outdoor recreation and interact with others in the broader community (Wood, Giles-Corti, & Bulsara, 2005; Wood, Giles-Corti, Bulsara, & Bosch, 2007). Graham and Glover (2014) describe dogs as “social facilitators” indicating a dog’s role in fostering opportunities for social leisure and engagement. Beck and Meyers (1996) found that dog owners had more and longer conversations while walking their dogs than people walking alone.

An interesting study by Graham and Glover (2014) focused on dog parks. They found that initially, human dog park visitors only knew other human visitors by their dogs’ names. Study participants discussed that how their dog interacted with other dogs and with the other humans in the dog park influenced the way they, as dog owners, were welcomed and/or treated and how they welcomed and developed relationships in turn. As time passed, some dog owners arranged to meet at the park at certain times so they and their dogs could interact. Some dog  owners also eventually developed relationships that extended outside of the dog park. The study also provides examples of social support being accessed by dog owners when they were facing a difficult time (e.g., sick dog, sick child). Visiting dog parks provided opportunities for those with similar interests (i.e., dogs) to come together, to meet, and develop relationships that provided to be valuable, beneficial, and supportive.

Dogs and Physical Activity

It appears that having a dog can be good for your physical activity levels and has even been proposed as a solution to obesity (Boisvert & Harrell, 2014; Salmon, Timperio, Chu, & Veitch, 2010). One Canadian study found that those adults with dogs walk almost twice as much as those who do not have dogs (Brown & Rhodes, 2006). Cutt, Knuiman, and Giles-Corti (2008) found that getting a dog not only increased individuals’ recreational walking, but also their intention to participate in recreational walking. The responsibility to care for a dog (which includes proper exercise) is likely a key motivator in getting dog owners out walking. The researchers also believed that acquiring a dog may be significant in influencing continued walking behaviours over time. Also, they point out that while life transitions (e.g., moving from singlehood to couplehood) can result in decreases in physical activity, dog ownership and the sense of responsibility to exercise the dog, may allow dog owners to maintain physical activity levels during times of transition.

Dogs and Vacations

We enjoying taking our shih tzu, Chuckie, on vacation. Recently, I went to Prince Edward Island with a friend and for the first time, left Chuckie at home with my husband. It was strange. The routine of taking him for a walk in the morning was missing. We even missed rushing back from our various adventures on the Island to hang out with him. And, we missed taking him for a car ride in the evenings when we went to watch the sunset. When we visit my mother in Nova Scotia, Chuckie loves going to the beach and it brings us great joy to watch him enjoy that part of our vacation as much as we do.

There is research on pets and travel. One Australian study found approximately 95% of dog owners preferred to take their dogs on vacation (Carr & Cohen, 2009). Another US-based study found that 78% of dog owners preferred to take their dogs on vacation (Hotel Online, 2003). Carr and Cohen also found that dog owners wanted to bring their dogs on vacation because it add to the “pleasure, enjoyment, and relaxation gained by them from the vacation experience” (p. 294). While the desire to take pets on vacation is quite high, pet owners also identify constraints in doing so – mainly a lack of pet-friendly accommodations. This can mean that travellers may choose (or be forced) to camp, stay with friends who welcome dog visitors, or book more expensive accommodations (e.g., cottages) as part of their vacation plans.

When dogs cannot accompany families on vacation, this increases the vacation planning as owners need to work out suitable arrangements for their dog and may also experience anxiety about how their pet is doing in their absence (or maybe that’s just me). In my own case, I find myself planning my vacation in a way that can include our dog and so my attachment to him influences the types of vacation experiences I seek.

Chuckie enjoying Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia. July 2014.

Chuckie enjoying Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia. July 2014.

I wish all dog owners a happy National Dog day. For those who recently lost a dog, I hope that the day is a chance to focus on the joy your dog brought and perhaps is an opportunity to anticipate the joy that a dog will bring to your life in the future.

References:

Anderson, P. E. (2008). The powerful bond between people and pets: Our boundless connections to companion animals. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Beck, A. M., & Meyers, M. (1996). Health enhancement and companion animal ownership. Annual Review of Public Health, 17, 247–257.

Boisvert, J. A., & Harrell, W. A. (2014). Dog walking: a leisurely solution to pediatric and adult obesity?. World Leisure Journal, 56(2), 168-171.

Brown, S. G., & Rhodes, R. E. (2006). Relationships among dog ownership and leisure-time walking in Western Canadian adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30, 131–136.

Cutt, H., Knuiman, M., & Giles-Corti, B. (2008). Does getting a dog increase recreational walking? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5(1), 17. Available at: http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/5/1/17

Graham, T. M., & Glover, T. D. (2014). On the Fence: Dog Parks in the (Un) Leashing of Community and Social Capital. Leisure Sciences, 36(3), 217-234.

Hodgson, K., & Darling, M. (2011). Pets in the family: Practical approaches. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 47(5), 299–305.

Hotel Online . ( 2003 ) The Sheraton, Westin, and W Hotel brands drop restrictions for dogs; Starwood survey convinces chain to include market niche of 62 million U.S. dog owners: http://hotel-online.com/archive/archive-7292.

Sable, P. (1995). Pets, attachment, and well-being across the life cycle. Social Work, 40(3), 334–341.

Salmon, J., & Timperio, A. (2011). Childhood obesity and human-animal interaction. In P. McCardle, S. McCune, J. A. Griffin, & V. Maholmes (Eds.), How animals affect us: Examining the influences of human-animal interaction on child development and human health (pp. 183–192). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Salmon, J., Timperio, A., Chu, B., & Veitch, J. (2010). Dog ownership, dog walking and children’s and parent’s physical activity. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 81, 264–271.

Wood, L., Giles-Corti, B., Bulsara,M., & Bosch, D. (2007).More than a furry companion: The ripple effect of companion animals on neighborhood interactions and sense of community. Society & Animals, 15(1), 43.

Wood, L., Giles-Corti, B., & Bulsara, M. (2005). The pet connection: pets as a conduit for social capital? Social Science and Medicine, 61(6), 1159–1173.

Considering Leisure Education Opportunities for Homeschooled Students

The start of the new school year is only a week away. While many children will be going back to a public school in their community, there are about 5% of children who will be learning at home. My nieces are two children who form the homeschool population in Canada. As my sister has shared thoughts as she prepares for the year ahead (one niece in Junior Kindergarten; one in Senior Kindergarten), I’ve become curious about the interaction between homeschooling and leisure. I have very little knowledge about homeschooling – I wasn’t homeschooled; to my knowledge I have only taught one student who was homeschooled in my 12 year career; and I only met two people who were homeschooled. Despite my lack of knowledge, I wanted to take some time to begin a discussion on some of the potential challenges and opportunities for leisure education within a homeschooling environment. I say “potential” challenges and opportunities because there is a lack of academic research on homeschooling and leisure. Therefore, I’m applying my understanding of leisure and how children experience leisure through their traditional pathway of public school in this discussion.

apple

Photo credits to Wel@Home

To begin, leisure education is a process of developing the attitudes, knowledge, and skills

needed to make positive leisure choices (Robertson, 2007). Leisure education is a lifelong process but it is quite critical for young people because childhood leisure influences leisure well into adulthood (Shannon & Shaw, 2008). There are a few key aspects of leisure that homeschooling parents might want to think about and explore.

Opportunities for Socialization. Developing social skills through socializing with others is an important leisure skill and one that is argued to be the a key influence on the quality of our lives and leisure (Mundy, 1998) . Children who lack social skills sometimes struggle to make friends because of challenges in starting and engaging in conversations, listening and understanding, and/or initiating invitations. They may also be challenged to expand and deepen relationships. Ensuring children have opportunities to socialize and develop these skills is important.

I suspect that most homeschooling parents give the socialization of their children significant consideration and look to provide opportunities through various activities for their children to engage with others their age. In some communities, recreation departments create opportunities for children who are homeschooled to come together with others to participate in activities. For example, last year, when my oldest niece with in junior kindergarten, she participated in swim lessons on Friday afternoons. They were offered for children who were homeschooled. What a great opportunity to not only develop her swimming skills, but to also socialize with other kids who were homeschooled. My sister needed to participate in the class with my niece, but for parents of older children, this was also an opportunity for homeschooling parents to socialize with each other during the instruction time.

Obviously, this type of opportunity costs money. However, youth free swims or free skates, library programs, or youth drop-in centres within communities offer other, less-expensive opportunities for children who are homeschooled to meet and interact with others their age. Church communities and neighbourhood playgrounds are also chances for interaction and friendship development. And, some cities and towns have their own homeschool networks or support groups where events are planned to bring homeschoolers together and provide opportunities to connect (my sister and her childhood friend have created WEL@home – a group for homeschoolers in the west end of Ottawa).

Exposure to Diverse Leisure Activities and Interests. In a classroom of 20 or more students in a school of 100 or more students, children have the chance to observe, listen to, and interact with a large number of children. This creates opportunities to become aware of and learn about different leisure activities in which children participate. For example, I did not figure skate, take piano lessons, play baseball, draw or paint, or grow my own vegetable garden at home, but I had classmates who did. I learned a lot about these activities because of the regular interaction with kids who had interests I did not. Since these classmates were not necessarily the friends I spent non-school time with, I likely would not have developed an awareness and understanding of these activities if it were not for our school interactions. I also learned how to play hopscotch, skip rope, play four square, and play marbles because this is what others in my age group were doing at recess and lunch time play periods of the playground. This group of kids exposed me to and taught me different activities that I would not have explored on my own. Exposure is a key first step in developing a large and diverse leisure repertoire. Research suggests that the leisure interests and skills children develop by the age of 10 tend to be the ones they carry throughout their lifetime. Meaning… if you don’t know how to skate by age 10, you’re unlike to do this activity as a teenager, young adult, or parent.

For homeschooling parents, awareness of the importance of this exposure may help them consider ways to ensure their children are exposed to a wide range of leisure activities and not just those activities in which their children express interest. Homeschooling networks are excellent ways to increase the opportunities for homeschooled children to meet and interact with others who may have interests that are different from their own. Facilitating opportunities for children to share what they like to do for fun or to talk about their favorite activity is one way to get the ball rolling with discovering diverse interests. For those involved in such groups, here’s one exercise you might want to do to begin discussions about leisure activities and interests (Find Someone Who…).

Another way of increase children’s exposure is to take them to spectate a variety of activities. Attend high school football, basketball, or volleyball games. Go to a rowing regatta. Keep your eye out for martial arts demonstrations (they seem to occur often at the mall in my city). Get tickets to the community dance studio’s year-end production. Watch sports on TV (I’m a big fan of using the Olympics as a way to increase children’s exposure to various activities). Attend concerts in the park; go to art demonstrations (e.g., pottery; basket weaving). All of these experience create an opportunity to discuss the activity or hobby, explain rules of sports or how activities are done, and gauge the interest/curiosity of your child as it relates to that activity.

Acquiring Leisure Skills. Within a school context, children do experience instruction in a number of activities – art, music, and sports (although the quality of this instruction likely various depending on the school district and the certifications that teachers are required to have to offer instruction).

In the absence of physical education classes, parents of home schooled children need to consider how to develop their children’s physical literacy. While homeschoolers estimated spending an average of 4 hours per week in physical education (i.e., being active), they indicated they spend little time in instruction of fundamental motor skills, team sport skills, or individual/dual sport skills (Gregory, 2005).  A few studies have found that homeschooling parents rely on youth sport program and homeschool support group sponsored physical education for instruction (Baker, 1999; Gregory, 2005; Waters, 1998), however, the quality of that instruction can vary depending on the qualifications of the leaders and may not . Gregory (2005) found that few parents in her study were aware that fundamental motor skills needed to be taught at an early age (they do not develop naturally) and expressed concern that homeschooled children may not be developing the necessary skill for mature, proficient movement. One advantage for homeschooled children is the opportunity to have personalize instruction of fundamental motor skills based on the child’s characteristics whether this is by a knowledgeable parent or by an instructor. Parents can read more in the report – Developing Physical Literacy: A Guide for Parents of Children Ages 0-12.

I see tremendous opportunity for parents to develop art and music skills through homeschooling. My own experience with art in public schools was… well… lackluster to say the least. I really did not develop much of an appreciation for art nor did I develop any real, specific skills. In music, I learned the recorder in Grade 4. I took part in choir. But, I did not learn to read music or play an instrument or anything that created lifelong enjoyment. I participated in dance, but that was outside of school and that’s where my real love of music (listening mainly) came from. I do believe that parents who homeschool have the opportunity to do a much better job fostering leisure skills in the areas of art and music. The flexibility of a homeschooling schedule and the opportunity for one-on-one attention could allow for skills to be explored and talents to be nurtured. If parents can afford to designate money for art and music skills, there may be opportunities to learn to paint or draw; scrapbook; quilt; do pottery; play the piano, violin, or the guitar. These skills may be developed through private instruction (either by a parent with expertise or other instructor), but time to practice and further hone skills can be included within the homeschooling schedule which sends a very positive message to children and youth that developing these leisure skills – that could turn into life long interests – is as important as typical school subjects. I’m all for this type of messaging!

Incorporating Leisure Learning into Traditional Subjects. Homeschooling parents have the advantage of being able to educate their children about and for leisure through their teaching of subjects like math, social studies, and language arts. Math learning can involve examples that relate to travel or sports. Rather than using grocery store prices when teaching about money and addition, costs of various leisure activities could be used (generating awareness). Children can write stories that relate to their leisure – their favorite activity, what they liked about attending a festival, or their best memory on vacation. Social studies offers opportunities to discuss leisure in different places, how leisure has changed over time (e.g., invention of the television), and could even foster leisure planning skills (e.g., what would you need to take on a vacation to Iceland in February; what could you want to do there; how much money would you need to take to do all the activities you might like to do). These are chances to draw attention to leisure and for discussion about what children value in terms of their free time, can generate leisure awareness/knowledge, and develop various leisure skills.

Summary. Homeschooling presents parents with both some challenges regarding leisure (e.g., social leisure; exposure to diverse leisure; skill instruction). However, with an understanding of what might not be accessed through a homeschool experience, parents also have the opportunity to take charge in fostering the development of leisure awareness, the acquisition of leisure knowledge and skill, and an appreciation of leisure’s role and importance in one’s life. I also think it is important to acknowledge that not all leisure-related experiences within school are positive and therefore, for some children, homeschooling means that leisure learning could be designed and delivered in a more meaningful way and in an environment that may not produce some of the negative experiences that are reported in traditional school environments.

References:

Baker, R. K. (1999). Physical education in the home school. Uppublished doctoral disseration, University of Georgia.

Gregory, E. R. (2005). Curriculum and the status of physical education in homeschooling. Unpublished doctoral disseration, Texas A & M University.

Mundy, J. (1998). Leisure education: Theory and practice. Champaign, IL: Sagamore.

Robertson, B. J. (2007). The leisure education manual. Wolfville, NS: Leisure Experience Associates.

Shannon, C. S., & Shaw, S. M. (2008). Mothers and daughters: Teaching and learning about leisure. Leisure Sciences, 30, 1-16.

Waters, G. J. (1998). Homeschool physical education instruction: An initial study. Unpublished doctoral disseration, Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Prescribing Exercise: Only One Step in Supporting Physical Activity

In May, I received an email announcing a new initiative by the New Brunswick Medical Society – prescription pads that can be used to prescribe exercise rather than medication. The press release included many voices supporting the initiative as a way “to help patients focus on increasing physical activity in their lives”. While I agree that having a physician prescribe a walking program or other forms of physical activity (depending on the physical capacities of the patient) can be an opportunity to help patients become more aware of the connection between being active and their health and/or addressing particular health problems they have, as a leisure educator I believe more support is needed. Inactivity is a complicated problem that cannot be resolved with a one, simple act (e.g., prescribing exercise).

prescribing exercise in New Brunswick

Example of the prescription pad which the New Brunswick Medical Society is offering free to physicians so they can prescribe walking or other activity when appropriate.

Increasing Activity is Complicated

While there is research to support that being prescribed an exercise program improves physical activity levels, results are mixed (Morgan, 2001; Sørensen, Skovgaard, & Puggaardand, 2006) and it is unclear about the long term affects (e.g., adherence to an exercise routine). So while prescribing exercise it is a first step, I do not believe it is “the answer”. It doesn’t start and stop with a prescription.

Some individuals need more support than simply being told to walk or engage in another form of physical activity. In my experience working with families who were raising a child who was overweight, telling them to engage in more physical activity was not effective and quite honestly, would be quite insensitive to the various challenges that they faced in making a shift to a more active lifestyle. What I observed (Shannon, 2012) was that these families needed much more information, guidance, and support in getting started on and maintaining a more active lifestyle. Parents needed help to figure out what active pursuits they and their children were interested in. They needed help in identifying the available resources in the community that could support more active lifestyles (e.g., low cost or no cost programs). They needed to know when the free swims and skates were in their communities or where to look for this information (some families I worked with did not even realize that there were free opportunities for their family). Some families needed to be made aware of subsidized recreation and sport opportunities. Families needed to know what equipment they needed and where they could get it (and in some cases, where they could get it cheaply). Some needed help with time management in order to find ways to make time for physical activity for their family.

Specifically related to the children, a number of them in the families I worked with were bullied in recreation and sport programs or when playing/biking in their neighbourhoods (Shannon, 2014). Some of them did not have the skill set to keep up with their friends and this affected their enjoyment when playing recreational sports or play on the playground. Some lacked self confidence to join in with friends even when they were interested in active play. There were many reasons why the “be more active” message on its own, regardless of who it was from (e.g., doctor, friends, teacher), was not going to contribute to developing a long term habit of physical activity.

One Size Fits All… Rarely

I struggle with the “one size fits all” approach that appears to come with this prescription idea. Perhaps physicians have the skills set and time to ascertain patients’ attitudes about physical activity, the barriers they experience (e.g., lack of money, perceived or real lack of time, lack of motivations, lack of self-confidence, lack of skill, body image issues, self-esteem issues), the knowledge they have (e.g., about proper shoes for walking, safe places to walk or exercise), and their interests (so they can prescribe activity that fits with the interests of their patients). If physicians do not have the time or inclination to assess various aspects of their patients’ leisure behaviour, will it be as effective?

Personally, I’ve experienced what seemed like random recommendations by physicians when I’ve struggled with anxiety. “Join a gym.” “Relax more.” “Meditate.” “Do yoga.” Some of these recommendations have come when I was a student – when I didn’t have money for yoga; when “relax more” seemed like the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard as deadlines loomed and pressure mounted; when I had no idea how to meditate or where I would learn to do so. I have walked away with recommendations that I easily dismissed because I couldn’t see how they could work for me (and in one case, a physician did write “yoga” on a prescription pad and give it to me as a “reminder” to do it). The recommendations were not bad ones, but there was no effort to support execution. This is the risk of the one size fits all approach. If there is no consideration for the circumstances of the individual – interests, challenges, skills, knowledge – how effective can the directive be?

Khan, Weiler, and Blair (2011) recommend that if physicians are “not skilled and trained in exercise prescription, probably a majority in most countries,” they should refer patients to someone with these skills such as a sports medicine physical or specialist or a personal trainer. This, of course, requires more local resources and services to support individuals needing to increase their physical activity levels. Even if such resources are available to individuals, not everyone can afford these forms of individual support.

Pushing Physical Activity Outside the Domain of Leisure

I worry that as we see a trend to medicalize physical activity, we move it out of the realm of “leisure.” Leisure is an activity or experience that is intrinsically motivated and in which there is, ideally, freedom of choice. There is also positive affect (e.g., pleasurable feelings; enjoyment). Prescribing exercise without guiding someone through a process where they make some choices about activities they are interested in doing and from which they may experience enjoyment means that it is very unlikely that physical activity will be experienced as “leisure.” Instead, the activity becomes one that serves a specific, instrumental purpose related to health and may, in fact, feel more like work. Certainly engaging in leisure can produce various health benefits and if chosen leisure activities include physically active pursuits, individuals can access the unique physiological benefits associated with physical activity. However, when physical activity is prescribed and individuals undertake it because they “have to” and do something they do not enjoy, individuals may lose out on the benefits that come from freely choosing an activity (e.g., having a sense of control) and the positive affect (e.g., enjoyment) commonly associated with leisure. If an activity is not satisfying or enjoyable, how long might one choose to adhere to it?

The Importance of Leisure Education

I see the prescription pad as one step, but this type of initiative should not be viewed as a stand alone solution to the trend of increasing inactivity levels. More needs to be done to support those who are sedentary in acquiring a more active lifestyle. Leisure education (a process in which individuals develop the values, attitudes, and skills for positive leisure functioning) is an effective strategy for changing leisure behaviours and could be used in conjunction with a physician’s initial prescription.

What might be helpful is a website address (url) on the prescription pad which directs patients to more information about leisure and physical activity. For example, information could be provided that would help patients to: assess their interests and choose an activity that is fun and enjoyable; ascertain whether various needs an individual has could be satisfied along with the physician’s directive to be active (e.g., need to socialize; need to release stress); develop their awareness of the resources in the community that would support physical (e.g., trails, walking tracks, links to schedules for swimming and skating; list of neighbourhoods that are flat where people could walk if their neighbourhood is hilly); develop knowledge of how to choose proper shoes for walking (since this is a specific activity on the prescription pad); understand common barriers to physical activity and strategies for overcoming them; and offer tips on fitting physical activity into busy schedules.

Conclusion

My point here is two-fold. First, we should not oversimplify complicated problems. Far too often, I see blog posts or magazine articles titled, “100 Easy Ways To Get Active” or “Ten Simple Ways to Increase Your Physical Activity” . For many, getting more active is neither easy nor simple and these statements marginalize those for whom it is a struggle. It doesn’t support them. Second, more attention needs to be given to educating people for leisure so they have the knowledge and skills they need to make choices during their leisure time that not only support meaningful leisure experiences, but also their physical and mental health. If more effort went into educating individuals about leisure – how it contributes to quality of life; how different pursuits can meet various needs and achieve various outcomes – perhaps we would not need to prescribe physical activity to individuals as a strategy for motivating changes in leisure behaviours.

References

Khan, K. M., Weiler, R., & Blair, S. N. (2011). Prescribing exercise in primary care. British Medical Journal, 343.

Morgan, W. P. (2001). Prescription of physical activity: a paradigm shift. Quest, 53(3), 366-382.

Shannon, C.S. (2012). Leisure education within the context of a childhood obesity intervention
programme: Parents’ experiences. World Leisure Journal, 54(1), 16-25.

Shannon, C.S. (2014). Facilitating physically active leisure for children who are overweight: Mothers experiences. Journal of Leisure Research, 46(4), 395-418.

Sørensen, J. B., Skovgaard, T., & Puggaard, L. (2006). Exercise on prescription in general practice: a systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, 24(2), 69-74.

 

3 Leisure-Related Behaviors That May Contribute to Rising Rates of Adult Obesity in Canada

Earlier in the week, the latest obesity rates for those 18 and over in Canada made the news with the release of a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Obesity is on the rise with rates having tripled since 1985 (from 6% to 18% in 26 years and an expectation these rates will be 21% by 2019).

Having worked with families with an obese child, I’ve had the opportunity to witness first hand the struggles families (both parents and children) face in living healthy lives in today’s society. I have had a chance to discuss with families what their individual leisure time looks like (for parents) and what their family leisure involves. From that research, across the 60 + families I worked with over a 5 year period, I learned about the variety of factors that influenced the leisure lives of these families. However, three leisure-related behaviors were common across the families – lack of time, preference for sedentary pursuits, and eating out as leisure. As I’ve done more research into Canadian statistics related to a couple of these factors, it is clear that it wasn’t just the families that I worked with who engage in these behaviors that may be contributing to rising rates of adult obesity.

Obesity and Leisure Behaviour

While there is a genetic component to obesity, the calories we consume and the calories we burn (through physical activity, for example) play a significant role in the obesity problem. We consume too many calories and don’t burn enough of the calories we consume. Research makes the case that individuals need to control sugar and fat intake, eat more healthy food, exercise more, etc. I wanted to take a deeper look at how our leisure-related behaviors that were common among the families I spoke with might be influencing calorie consumption and energy expenditure.

1. We Use “Lack of Time” as the Reason for Not Being Active. This was a common reason why parents told me they had trouble incorporating more activity into their family’s daily life. I’ve discussed the idea of time use and priorities in other blog posts, but it is worth repeating. The way we prioritize aspects of our lives and what we make room for influences our leisure behavior. Really, it is not “lack of time” that contributes to my inactivity or poor food choices, it is not setting activity or healthy eating as a priority (and organizing and living my life as if it is a priority). Or, I’m not active because I’m not motivated, or because I may not have energy left after a difficult day. Citing “lack of time” as a reason for not doing something allows us to surrender responsibility for our time and our decisions related to how we use it. It also stops us from really getting at what might be the core reasons we are not doing certain things that we know are beneficial (e.g., don’t enjoy activity; would rather socialize at lunch than go for a walk).

It is not an easy task to reorganize priorities, especially when you are part of a family where your personal priorities may be in conflict with the priorities of others. A first step may involve getting family members to develop attitudes toward active living that will support it being a priority. Another step might be to keep a time diary to better understand what time you and your family members do have and where that time it is going. Once you know how your time is spent, you can determine whether it reflects your priorities and start to make adjustments.

2. Sedentary Leisure Pursuits Dominated Leisure Time. Many of the families I worked with enjoyed sedentary pursuits (e.g., reading, watching tv, playing video games, play cards) – either alone or as a family. While there are many options available to Canadians for engaging in active recreation, there has also been a trend in people choosing and finding some level of satisfaction in pursuits that are sedentary. Social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) provide opportunities for connecting with others; maintaining knowledge of current events; and searching for information related to hobbies, interests, or roles that individuals play (e.g., parent, coach, domestic engineer). In fact, Canadians consume content from over 100 websites and approximately 4,000 web pages per month.

There are many studies that have linked television watching to obesity, and men and women who are frequent television viewers are more likely to be inactive in their leisure time. Depending on the statistics you locate, the average Canadian adult, when indicating how time at home is spent, watches between 20 and 30 hours of television a week. Television viewing is often hypothesized as an activity that replaces engagement in physical activity and it is understandable that if 20 to 30 hours a week are spent watching television, this choice is likely being made over choices to engage in active leisure.

Almost 60% of Canadians age 12 or older can be classified as social media networkers (approximately 13 Million Canadians) and a recent report, 2012 Canada Digital Future in Focus, indicated the average Canadian is spending about 45 hours a month browsing the Internet. Statistics compiled by the Television Bureau of Canada in 2012 found the average 18- to 49-year-old spent 23 hours per week online. Those in the age range of 18 to 24 watched less television (a mere 14 hours per week), but were online 31 hours per week.

This means that the “average” Canadian is either watching television or is on the Internet for between 6.8 days (163 hours) and 7.5 days (180 hours) per month. Some of this time could involve activity (e.g., watching television while on the treadmill at the gym or at home), but there is no specific data on how much of this time might be active. Also, it is possible that some individuals are online while watching television which would lessen the amount of total time spent on these activities combined. People may also be engaging in activities online that were previously done offline (e.g., reading the newspaper) meaning more time on the Internet but less time reading. In this scenario, we could argue that there has been a shift in time spent in one sedentary activity to another. While the increased television and Internet time is likely sedentary activity, more research is needed to understand exactly how much more sedentary Canadians are than they have been in the past. However, even if all the Internet and television time was occurring at the same time, that would be between 20 and 30 hours of sedentary leisure per week. Cutting back on 7 hours a week would allow for 60 minutes of active leisure each day of the week.

3. Eating Out Has Become a Common, Social Leisure Behavior. Many of the families I interviewed talked about eating out as a family activity. While it obviously fulfilled the need to eat, parents often saw it as an opportunity to spend time together. As Canadians feel more time pressed (e.g., long hours working, longer commute times because of urban sprawl), eating out or getting take out is often a solution for getting fed without needing to take the time to cook a meal or pack a lunch. Beyond the functional role that eating out plays (e.g., nourishing our bodies when we feel there is no time to cook), there is a social component to eating out that, similar to the families I worked with, appeals to many Canadians. For example, a 2010 Ipsos Reid and the Canadian Restaurant Food Association study found 35% of Canadians prefer the restaurant, pub, or bar as their number one place to socialize with friends and family. Another 12% of people prefer socializing at the movies (and how many of us pass up the movie snacks). For Canadians who are 55 years of age and older, 42.3% chose eating out at a restaurant as the number one social activity.

Eating out as part of their social activity in and of itself might not be harmful if it weren’t for the frequency. One study found 60% of Canadians eat in restaurants once a week and an average Atlantic Canadian or Ontarian eats out twice a week. Eating out more frequently is associated with obesity, higher body fatness, or higher BMI (e.g., Chung, Popkin, Domino, & Stearns, 2007; Kruger, Blanck, & Gillespie, 2008). So, it just may be that the ways in which individuals are connecting socially or prefer to engage socially are also contributing to a greater consumption of calories.

It may be worth considering how personal and family leisure behaviors contribute to our individual health and not just as it concerns body weight and obesity.

  • What leisure can you prioritize that will improve your health and well-being?
  • Can you substitute some of your sedentary behaviors for more active pursuits? Can you find 30 minutes a day to be more active? Can you give up 30 minutes of something you are already doing for a more active pursuit?
  • Are there other ways to connect socially that don’t involve eating high calorie foods or being sedentary (e.g., Facebook),
  • If you do eat out in restaurants or pubs as part of your social leisure, are there ways you can eat more healthy?

Food for thought.

References:

Chung, S., Popkin, B. M., Domino, M. E., & Stearns, S. C. (2007). Effect of retirement on eating out and weight change:  An analysis of gender differences. Obesity, 15(4), 1053-1060.

Kruger, J., Blanck, H. M., & Gillespie, C. (2008). Dietary practices, dining out behavior, and physical activity correlates of weight loss maintenance. Preventing chronic disease, 5(1).

Considering the Role of Community Infrastructure when Talking about Obesity

Role of Community Infrastructure in Obesity

A new “Ted Talk” appeared in my podcast list recently and I finally got a chance yesterday to give it a listen. It was a TED MED talk given by the Mayor of Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett, titled – “This City is Going on a Diet”. I think his talk and the approach he took to thinking about city, neighborhood, and community planning as a way to improve the quality of life of his citizens and move his city from one of the “fattest” to the “fittest” is worthy of sharing and thinking about further.

What we see most often in the news, in magazines, on tv shows such as “The Biggest Loser” is a person-centered or individualistic approach to preventing and managing (or combating) obesity. There are suggestions on how to avoid gaining 10 lbs over the holidays, how to begin an exercise routine, or how to maintain an exercise routine when motivation is absent. We see examples of people cutting this or that out of their diet (e.g., wheat, dairy) and working out several hours a day under the watchful eye of a personal trainer or coach (e.g., Biggest Loser). What is much less prevalent in the media are examples of policies or mandates – be they federal, provincial/state, or municipal – that support individuals in becoming more fit. Enter Mayor Cornett. One of Mayor Cornett’s main points in his talk was that although individuals needed to begin having conversations about obesity and health and making an individual effort to be active, “health-related infrastructure” needed to be added to the city. He explained that the quality of life in his city was great… if you were a car. Under his leadership, the city made it a priority to develop infrastructure that supported greater activity of its citizens and added parks, bicycle trails, senior health and wellness centers, water sports venues, and miles of sidewalks. Efforts were also made to create a more pedestrian-friendly city by connecting, for example, libraries to neighborhoods. Five years later… Oklahoma City was no longer on the “fattest cities” list, but rather among the top 22 “fittest cities”.

I’ve noticed that the if you search for real estate in Canada through Realtor.ca, listings have a “walk score”. I live in a neighborhood that is 6 kms from where I work and 7 kms from the downtown core. The walk score is a only 20 and houses on my street get labelled under the walk score as “car dependent”. I agree. We are not particular close to amenities (one of the criteria). However, there are also gaps in connectors that could make it possible for me (or others) to walk or bike to work or downtown. Currently, there is a 3 km section of main road (with a speed limit of 70 km/hour) without any sidewalks. That same section of road has no bike lane and is not curbed, nor does it have a decent shoulder to the road where a biker could safely ride. This makes walking or biking fairly unsafe and disconnects my neighborhood from the city in a way that takes walking or biking to walk off the table as as an option.

One of the advantages of my neighborhood, however, is that its design includes green space/park in the middle with paths that connect various streets to one another and to the park. No matter where you live in the neighborhood, you can get to the park easily and safely (on sidewalks or paths) within five minutes. There is a baseball field, playground, wading pool and lots of plain ol’ open space. This is an example of neighborhood planning and design that, in theory, helps support both adults’ and children’s active leisure. For example, I have seen parents walk with their kids to the playground and then continue on their own walk within the neighborhood while their children play on the playground equipment or throw a Frisbee around. In my own walks through the park, I have seen children there one their own playing – arriving on bikes or by foot. Certainly, it isn’t every child in the neighborhood, but some do take advantage of the close proximity of the park and the ease with which they can reach it.

There needs to be ongoing recognition of the role that planning of cities and neighborhoods have in helping citizens to live healthy lifestyles and make healthy choices. There are environmental factors that contribute to inactivity and therefore growing obesity rates. Sidewalks are important to support citizens in walking their neighborhoods. Play structures in neighborhoods can encourage and motivate children’s outdoor and active play. Considering ways to connect neighborhoods to amenities with trails and sidewalks or bike paths also can help create options for walking or biking as opposed to traveling by car. This infrastructure, on its own, will not create a culture of walking or a culture of activity. There will likely remain a need to educate the public about the importance/benefits of taking time to be active and encourage the use of the infrastructure available to increase activity levels. However, without the infrastructure, the task of incorporating physical activity into daily life may simply be too difficult or overwhelming for some. It is important to remember that not everyone can get transportation by bus or car to places to walk (e.g., parks or trails) or play or swim or skateboard. Not everyone can afford that transportation or the cost of gym or club memberships. For those without their own transportation or those with lower incomes, the provision of “health-related infrastructure” within the community may be critical to supporting more active lifestyles.

Further Reading:

Oklahoma City on a Diet. http://www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com/

Wendel-Vos, W., Droomers, M., Kremers, S., Brug, J., & van Lenthe, F. (2007). Potential environmental determinants of physical activity in adults: A systematic review. Obesity Review, 8, 425–440.

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