Fit Kids Need Playgrounds

Fear of dangerous strangers is keeping our kids and teens from using their neighborhood playgrounds and parks. Instead of running out like we did in the olden days, they stay inside and play virtual table tennis on their Nintendo Wii. It’s not the same thing.

playground graffiti Fit Kids Need Playgrounds

Researchers in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, looked at perceived opportunities and barriers to physical activity in an inner-city neighbourhood in Edmonton. Study data revealed three themes that influenced youngsters’ opportunities for physical activity, with positive and negative factors for each.

  • The first theme identified was “neighbourhood characteristics.”

Positive neighborhood characteristics include “walkable” neighborhoods with plenty of parks and playgrounds and nearby amenities. Negative neighborhood characteristics include perceived “stranger danger” fears related to drug users, bullies, prostitutes, gang members and fear of abduction deterred children and youth from visiting these places.

  • The second theme was “family involvement.”

Researchers found that while children and youth were rarely allowed out alone, involvement by a family member, for example, accompanying them to a park to play, increased their engagement in physical activity.

  • The third theme was the “availability of adult-supervised programs.”

On the positive side, we have neighborhoods with a large variety of programs offered by dedicated, hard-working staff and volunteers. Conversely, neighborhoods with minimal resources; poor staff and volunteer recruitment and retention, and little public knowledge of program availability suffered badly. Even when kids did sign up for available programs, there was a high dropout rate.


If we want our kids to grow up fit and strong and healthy, we need to:

  1. Take back our neighborhood parks & playgrounds (easier said than done)
  2. Get involved with our kids’ lives…not just drop them off at the rec center
  3. Push our governments for more public fitness programs


Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.


  1. Aqiyl Aniys | Natural Life Energy

    February 17, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I agree with your conclusions but we need to be more active in the change process and too many are not.

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  4. Yum Yucky

    October 26, 2010 at 3:56 am

    It’s tough in those inner city playground. Probably safer to play in the street with oncoming traffic (but no, I didn’t say go do that) opposed to the “grounds” where the drug dealers, old drug paraphernalia and hoes hang out. Oh, and somebody’s gonna have a gun, of course. Ugh.

  5. Heather M

    October 13, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I think it all depends on where you live. There are no “graffiti playgrounds” where I’m located.

    You’re right though…I make my girls go outside and play every day. There’s no way they are just going to sit there watching TV and video games all the time!

    My husband and I decided 8 years ago that we didn’t want our children in daycare. It’s been a financial struggle with me being a stay at home mom, but worth every penny.

    It’s so important that parents take an active role in their kids lives!


  6. John

    October 2, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Heaven help me if I ever see some predator lurking around our local playground where I workout and where my daughter plays. Let’s just say…

    one adult weirdo + with camera + no kids = Ass Whoopin’

  7. Steve Parker, M.D.

    October 1, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I wonder if neighborhoods really are scarier, more dangerous places than they were 30 years ago. Or does it just seem that way because of the Internet and 24-hr cable news shows.

    If a 10-year-old girl is kidnapped off the street in Minot, North Dakota, everybody hears about it in Hawaii 30 minutes later. And Nancy Grace yaks about it every night for the next two weeks.

    Thirty years ago, most people would have been unaware.


  8. DR

    October 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    It seems funny to say this, but Congrats on getting your kids off the Wii and getting them outside to play.

    According to the latest “research”, you are in the minority.