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Where they live, how they play: Neighborhood greenness and outdoor physical activity among preschoolers

Diana S Grigsby-Toussaint1*, Sang-Hyun Chi2 and Barbara H Fiese3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

2 Department of Geography, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

3 Family Resiliency Center, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2011, 10:66  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-10-66

Published: 14 December 2011



Emerging empirical evidence suggests exposure to "green" environments may encourage higher levels of physical activity among children. Few studies, however, have explored this association exclusively in pre-school aged children in the United States. We examined whether residing in neighborhoods with higher levels of greenness was associated with higher levels of outdoor physical activity among preschoolers. In addition, we also explored whether outdoor playing behaviors (e.g., active vs. quiet) were influenced by levels of neighborhood greenness independent of demographic and parental support factors.


Higher levels of neighborhood greenness as measured by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was associated with higher levels of outdoor playing time among preschool-aged children in our sample. Specifically, a one unit increase in neighborhood greenness increased a child's outdoor playing time by approximately 3 minutes. A dose-response relationship was observed between increasing levels of parental support for physical activity (e.g., time spent playing with children) and child outdoor physical activity (p < 0.01).


Consistent with previous studies, neighborhood greenness influences physical activity behavior. However, for preschoolers, parental involvement may be more critical for improving physical activity levels.

Physical activity; preschoolers; children; neighborhoods; greenness