Dr. Brenton Button – Examining the environmental influences on physical activity among children in rural Northern Ontario

Brenton Button successfully defended his PhD thesis titled Examining the environmental influences on physical activity among children in rural Northern Ontario. Brenton completed his PhD in Geography under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland at the HEAL in 2020. During his studies, he focused on understanding the relationship between the environment and physical activity levels, and patterns of children living in rural communities.  

Low levels of physical activity among children in Canada have been a primary health concern over the last decade. Higher levels of physical activity are associated with numerous social, physical, and mental health benefitsOne area that has had a positive impact on children’s physical activity is the environment in which they live and go to school. Despite growing evidence around the connection between a child’s environment and physical activity, little research has examined the influence of the environment on the physical activity of rural Canadian children. 

This dissertation used data from the Spatial Temporal and Activity Monitoring (STEAM) study. The STEAM study used a multi-methods design to gather both quantitative and qualitative health data on a geographically diverse group of children aged 8-14 years in Ontario.  

First, analyses using logistic regression showed that different factors influence physical activity on weekdays as compared to weekendsOweekends, children from rural Northern Ontario were also more active than children from different neighbourhood types (urban, suburban, rural) in Southern Ontario.  

Read the full-text article here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335520301054 

Second, a cross-classified model was also used to explore the factors that influence physical activity among rural children from Northern Ontario, specifically focusing on weather. Boys were more active than girls, children were more active on weekdays, children were less active on days with precipitation, and higher temperature led to higher levels of PA.  

 Read the full-text article here: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.17269/s41997-020-00324-3.pdf 

Third, qualitative methods were used to further explore the environmental influences on rural children’s physical activityResearchers asked small groups of children about their thoughts about their physical activity in their environment. Three important themes were identified as having an impact on children’s PA: physical environment, social environment, and perceptions of safety. 

Overall, these results suggest that different components of time and specific factors related to living in a rural environment impact children’s physical activity. These results can be used to plan interventions in these rural areas to help promote children’s physical activity levels and overall health. 


Categories: Newsletter, STEAM

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