Living close to a safe, clean park increases the amount of time California teenagers spend exercising, a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows.
The findings, while not necessarily surprising, have implications for park-starved areas of California and for neighborhoods where parks are not considered safe, according to Susan H. Babey, a senior research scientist at the UCLA center and lead author of the study.
Across the state, only 25 percent of adolescents live near a park or open space, according to the policy brief. Of the teens who live near parks, low-income teenagers were more likely than teens from higher-income families to report that their neighborhood park was unsafe. Low-income teens also were less likely to be active for at least one hour daily.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity for teenagers. In California, only 15 percent of teens meet this recommendation, down from 19 percent in 2007.
Nearly 45 percent of California teens who live near a park — within a quarter-mile of a small park or a half-mile of a large one — reported that they bike, run, play sports or engage in other physical activities for at least one hour a day, at least five days a week. Only one-third of teens who don’t have access to a nearby park reported the same level of physical activity.
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