The size of a family's backyard does not impact kids' physical activity, study finds

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

As housing prices rise and many are forced to downsize, the dream of a white picket fence and a huge backyard may be dashed - but that doesn't necessarily mean kids' health has to take a hit too.

New research suggests that the size of a yard has no impact on the amount of exercise children do.

The study, led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) and the University of Melbourne, recorded the physical activity of 5276 Melbourne six-year-olds over eight days using an accelerometer, a wearable tool that measures acceleration.

Despite the differing sizes of yards, the study found almost no rise in sedentary behaviour, and light or moderate to vigorous physical activity. The children still maintained the physical activity guidelines of at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, regardless of the size of the space available to them.

This bodes well for city planning as cities get denser and yard sizes decrease, but it also highlights the need for schools and other outdoor places like public parks to support children's physical activity.

"This research indicates the importance and value of public outdoor spaces such as parks in supporting physical activity and play for all children, no matter their background or where they live," says MCRI Professor and GenV Scientific Director Melissa Wake.

"Improving equity in health outcomes for all children is a core value of MCRI's GenV research project."

The Gen V project, encompassing one of the world's largest-ever birth and parent cohort studies, will according to Director Wake "help government and policy-makers assess and access future research studies similar to this one to help better plan for policy solutions now and into the future, including looking at the environments children are growing up in."

"Physical activity has health and developmental benefits for young children, including mitigating the risks of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and improving motor and cognitive development," added MCRI's and the University of Melbourne's Dr Suzanne Mavoa.