Children who are given plenty of opportunities to play at home are more likely to maintain an active lifestyle as grown-ups, according to new research.
The finding comes from the Dunedin Multi-disciplinary Health and Development Study at Otago University, which has followed 1,000 Dunedin-born individuals since their birth in 1972 or 1973.
At ages seven and nine, home-based opportunities to climb trees and fences, play on swings, play in paddling pools, ride bikes and play ball games were recorded as well as family involvement in social and recreational activities.
Later, at ages 15 and 18, participation in physical activity was also measured.
Rose Richards of Otago University who led the research found that those whose childhood family environment involved more social and recreational activities and opportunities to play at home were more likely to maintain an active lifestyle during adolescence.
"We already know that keeping kids and teens physically active is important for their health and development. Unfortunately, physical activity usually declines during adolescence, so it is exciting to find childhood factors that we can encourage to help protect against this," Richards said.
"Having opportunities for children to play outdoors in the home environment, and encouraging a family dynamic where regular participation in social and recreational activities is part of normal family life, gives kids a head start for staying active when they are older," she said.
This study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.