Background: Given the importance of physical activity for health and age-related declines in physical activity, understanding influences on related behaviours such as time outdoors is crucial. This study aimed to understand individual, social and physical environmental influences on longitudinal changes in urban children’s time outdoors.
Methods: Parents (n=421) reported their child’s time spent outdoors in 2001, 2004 and 2006 (age 5-6 and 10-12 years at baseline). In 2001, individual, social and physical environmental factors were self-reported by parents. Generalized estimating equations examined longitudinal relationships between baseline predictors and average change in time outdoors over five years.
Results: Children’s time outdoors significantly declined over time. ‘Indoor tendencies’ inversely predicted time outdoors among younger and older boys, and younger girls. Social opportunities positively predicted time outdoors among younger boys, while ‘outdoor tendencies’ positively predicted time outdoors among older boys. Parental encouragement for activity positively predicted time outdoors among younger and older girls, while lack of adult supervision for active play outdoors after school inversely predicted time outdoors among older girls and older boys.
Conclusion: Individual (indoor and outdoor tendencies) and social factors (social opportunities, parental encouragement and parental supervision) predicted children’s time outdoors over five years. Interventions targeting reduced indoor tendencies, increased outdoor play with others, and increased parental encouragement and supervision are warranted.