Suburban kids less active, says U of S researcher

A PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan has won a national award for her findings that children in the suburbs are less active than their urban neighbors.

Study tracked 800 children in Saskatoon for a year

A study found that children in Saskatoon's suburbs are less active than their urban peers. (Google Maps)

The suburbs are often thought of as a safer place to raise healthy children.

There are often not a lot of things to see and do in these places.- Larisa   Lotoski  

But Larisa Lotoski, a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan, is challenging those beliefs with an award-winning study examining "how our neighbourhoods can shape how active we are in our everyday lives."

"A lot of people, including kids, are spending way more time indoors," she said.

That may not come as a huge shock in this digital era, as people are spend more and more time on screens doing things like playing games and communicating with friends on social media platforms.

The big takeaway from the study is that children in the suburbs are less active than their urban neighbours.  

The work earned Lotoski an award from the Canadian Public Health Association.

University of Saskatchewan PhD student Larisa Lotoski recently won a national award for her work in understand how active children are in Saskatoon's various neighbourhoods. (University of Saskatchewan)

How the study was conducted 

For a year, Lotoski outfitted 800 children aged nine to 14 with fitness trackers and GPS to find out what they were up to in their leisure time.  

The suburbs offer bigger yards, parks and bike paths, but Lotoski found that sprawl in newer neighbourhoods can keep children at home.  

"There are often not a lot of things to see and do in these places," she said in an interview withCBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

That's not the case for urban kids, according to Lotoski. She offered the example of children who live in places like Nutana in Saskatoon, with the trendy Broadway shopping district at its heart.  

"They are free to go, they can walk a couple of blocks, find a park, find a place to pick up some snacks with friends, and then head back home."

Lotoski said this work is just a beginning and she hopes to keep doing research to help shape cities, so that decision makers will support policies to keep urban neighbourhoods interesting and change the way they plan new areas to make them "not as sprawled out and far away from amenities so we can all have an equal opportunity."

The study found that children are more active when they have more to do and more to see. Lotoski offered the example of children living near Saskatoon's Broadway district. (Peter Mills/CBC)

with files from Saskatoon Morning