Exercise aids, neighborhood safety, and physical activity in adolescents and parents

Jacqueline Kerr, Gregory J Norman, James F Sallis, Kevin Patrick
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2008, 40 (7): 1244-8

PURPOSE: To investigate the relationships among exercise aids available at home, physical activity, and perceived neighborhood safety.

METHODS: Physical activity was assessed using the 7-d recall interview for adolescents (n = 878) and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire for parents (n = 853). Parents reported exercise aids such as fitness equipment, running shoes, and dogs in their household using a 16-item checklist and perceptions of neighborhood safety using the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale. Physical activity scores were dichotomized to represent meeting weekly guidelines for children (300 min) and adults (150 min). Logistic regression analyses investigated the interaction between exercise equipment and neighborhood safety in relation to the two physical activity outcomes, controlling for participant demographics.

RESULTS: The number of home-use (OR = 1.27) and outdoor-use (OR = 1.24) exercise aids was significantly related to physical activity in adolescent girls but not boys. An interaction effect indicated that the relationship between home-use exercise equipment and physical activity levels was specific for girls in neighborhoods perceived as less-safe (OR = 4.40), rather than those perceived as safe (OR = 1.07, P < 0.01). In the parent sample, home-use (OR = 1.24) and outdoor use (OR = 1.16) exercise aids were significantly related to physical activity levels. An interaction between outdoor exercise aids and safety indicated that the effect was specific to parents who lived in neighborhoods perceived as safe (OR = 2.43) compared to those perceived as less-safe (OR = 0.91, P < 0.01).

CONCLUSION: Girls living in neighborhoods their parents perceive to be less-safe may benefit from having exercise equipment they can use in the home. Parents living in neighborhoods perceived to be safe may benefit from having exercise aids that they can use outside.

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