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Environmental influences on children's physical activity
  1. Theodora Pouliou1,
  2. Francesco Sera2,
  3. Lucy Griffiths2,
  4. Heather Joshi3,
  5. Marco Geraci2,4,
  6. Mario Cortina-Borja2,
  7. Catherine Law2
  1. 1School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education University of London, London, UK
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Catherine Law, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK;{at}


Background This paper aims to assess whether 7-year-olds’ physical activity is associated with family and area-level measures of the physical and socioeconomic environments.

Methods We analysed the association of environments with physical activity in 6497 singleton children from the UK Millennium Cohort Study with reliable accelerometer data (≥2 days and ≥10 h/day). Activity levels were assessed as counts per minute; minutes of moderate to vigorous activity (MVPA); and whether meeting recommended guidelines (≥60 min/day MVPA).

Results Higher levels of children's physical activity were associated with households without use of a car and with having a television in a child's bedroom (for counts per minute only). Aspects of the home socioeconomic environment that were associated with more children's physical activity were lone motherhood, lower maternal socioeconomic position and education, family income below 60% national median, and not owning the home. Children's activity levels were higher when parents perceived their neighbourhood as poor for bringing up children and also when families were living in the most deprived areas. Relationships were independent of characteristics such as child's body mass index and ethnic group. When adjusted for physical and socioeconomic correlates, the factors remaining significant in all outcomes were: household car usage and maternal education.

Conclusions Although physical and socioeconomic environments are associated with children’s physical activity, much of the variation appears to be determined by the child's home socioeconomic circumstances rather than the wider environment where they live.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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