Exploring the Effect of Perceptions on Children’s Physical Activity in Varying Geographic Contexts: Using a Structural Equation Modelling Approach to Examine a Cross-Sectional Dataset

There is an ongoing trend of low levels of physical activity amongst children in Canada, which is a huge concern for population health. Physical activity is associated with various physical, mental and social health benefits; the type, duration, and intensity of the physical activity plays a large role in this association. There have been suggestions that children’s physical activity behaviours are highly influenced by how they perceive their environment. This is what prompted our research team – Leah G. Taylor, Andrew F. Clark, Piotr Wilk, Brenton L. Button and Jason A. Gilliland – to further assess the mediating effects of children’s perceptions of barriers to physical activity, on the relationship with their environments.

A mixed-methods research study from 2010 to 2016 took place in 35 schools across Ontario. Environmental influences on health and well-being of children between the ages of 8-14 years was investigated. Perception of neighbourhood, social and safety barriers were of interest, along with urbanicity were believed to have an impact on MVPA. Using accelerometers, children’s level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was assessed. The team had collected data over two seasons, to account for the impact of seasonality on children’s mobility and health-related behaviours. Results indicated that barriers and physical environment (even independently) have significant effect and influences on MVPA; Higher levels of MVPA are associated with lower urbanicity and fewer perception of neighbourhood barriers.

Study offered insight into potential processes by which perceptions shape and impact MVPA. Unlike previous arguments, assessments of objective environment are not enough to change children’s physical activity behaviour. Researchers must improve efforts for quantifying children’s experience in daily activities. Furthermore, applications and improvements to this study method could potentially benefit objective assessments on heterogeneous Canadian geography and its impact on children’s experience of barriers and physical activity levels.

Read the full article here: https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9067/5/12/159

Keywords: physical activity; children; Canada; urbanicity; accelerometer; barriers; perceptions

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