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Your neighborhood may affect your teen's weight

When you're considering buying a new home, you think about whether it has a finished basement, whether you can afford it and what the schools are like.

One thing that might not cross your mind -- but Could have a big impact on your family's health -- is whether there are destinations nearby that your teenager can safely walk or bicycle to.

A study published Friday in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that, among 12,000 adolescents in grades 8 through 10, those who could bike or walk to destinations such as school, a tennis court or even a movie theater tended to get more physical activity and have lower BMIs than those who didn't have such access.

The association held whether the teens lived in rural, urban or suburban neighborhoods. And the destination didn't have to be one that, like a swimming pool, involved physical activity itself. It just had to be close enough and on a safe enough route for the kid to get there and back without being driven by car.

Having easy access to a playground, interestingly, didn't have the same effect; the authors suggest that while little kids and their caregivers use playgrounds for physical activity, teenagers don't.

That might sound obvious. But my personal experience illustrates how hard it is to think ahead to something like that when you're buying your first family home. We moved into ours when our daughter was a baby and her brother not yet born or even imagined. We had a big back yard with a swimming pool and a stream in back, so we figured our little girl would have plenty of opportunity for physical activity, especially when we set up a swing set.

The fact that we live on a busy highway with no sidewalks didn't sink in until much later, when the kids started to want to ride bikes and to hang out with other kids. We ended up having to drive them places to do those things. And now that they're both teenagers, I really wish there were a sidewalk they could stomp along with their friends, the way I did when I was their age.

Luckily, they've both found plenty of ways to be physically active. But I offer their tale as a cautionary one -- now backed up by research.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 31, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Teens  
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Next: Can we beat childhood obesity?

Comments

When I saw the headline I was sure this was going to say that Manassas = Fatasses, although I guess it did in a roundabout manner.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | May 31, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

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