The Role of Recreational Spaces in Meeting Physical Activity Recommendations Among Middle School Students

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health


There is growing recognition of the importance of recreational space utilization for promoting physical activity (PA) among youth.


An cross-sectional study was conducted with a sample of 926 diverse 6th-8th grade students in Somerville, MA. Participants completed the 2007 Youth Risk Surveillance Survey (YRBS). Chi-square testing and logistical regression modeling were performed to predict meeting national PA recommendations for moderate, vigorous, and 60 minutes or more (60+) PA.


The participants reported meeting recommended PA levels for moderate (27%), vigorous (70%) and 60+ (21%) PA. In multivariate analysis, being male and speaking English were significantly associated with meeting all 3 PA recommendations. Recreational spaces significantly associated with meeting PA recommendations included neighborhood parks and walk/bike paths, playing fields and courts, and recreational centers. Recreational space utilization varied by gender, race/ethnicity, and language.


Recreational space utilization was an important predictor of meeting PA recommendations among middle school students. Our results showed that PA attainment and recreational space utilization varied by demographic characteristics. The role of each recreational space in predicting PA varied depending on the outcome used. This study demonstrates the potential use of YRBS data to inform resource allocation for PA promotion in diverse communities.

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Chomitz and Hacker are with the Institute for Community Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA. Aske is with the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. McDonald is with the Dept of Population Medicine, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA. Cabral is with the Biostatistics Graduate Program, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA.