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Marianne Nichol, Ian Janssen and William Pickett

Background:

The safety of neighborhoods and availability of parks and facilities may influence adolescent physical activity independently or interactively.

Methods:

9114 Canadians in grades 6 to 10 completed the 2006 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey. The outcome of interest was students’ self-reported participation in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity outside of school. A composite scale based on questions measuring student perceptions of safety was used to capture individual perceptions of safety. In addition, schools were grouped into quintiles based on the mean of the perceived safety scale, used as a proxy for peer perceptions. The number of parks and recreational facilities within 5 km of schools was abstracted from a geographical information system.

Results:

Moderate gradients in physical activity were observed according to individual and group perceptions of safety. Boys and girls with the highest perceptions of safety were 1.31 (95% CI: 1.17−1.45) and 1.45 (1.26−1.65) times more likely to be physically active, respectively, than those with the lowest perceptions. Compared with those who perceived the neighborhood as least safe, elementary students in higher quintiles were 1.31, 1.39, 1.37, and 1.56 times more likely to be physically active (P trend = 0.012). Increased numbers of recreational features were not related to physical activity irrespective of neighborhood safety.

Conclusions:

Individual and group perceptions of neighborhood safety were modestly associated with adolescents’ physical activity.

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Ian Janssen, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, William F. Boyce and William Pickett

Background:

The purpose of this study was to examine the independent influence of physical inactivity and obesity on health complaints in school-aged youth.

Methods:

The findings are based on Canadian records from the 2001-2002 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Survey. The study cohort consisted of 5673 youth in grades 6 to 10. Body weight and height (used to calculate body mass index and adiposity level), physical activity, and somatic (physical) and psychological health complaints were measured by questionnaire. General linear models were used to characterize the associations between physical activity and adiposity with somatic and psychological health complaints.

Results:

In boys and girls, adiposity level alone was independently associated with somatic health complaints, whereas both physical activity level and adiposity level were independently associated with psychological health complaints.

Conclusion:

The findings suggest that the prevention and treatment of both physical inactivity and obesity are important in school-aged youth.