Differences in child physical activity levels at rural Play Streets due to activity type and sex


Children are significantly less active during summer months and rural children may face unique barriers to engaging in physical activity (PA). Play Streets is a low-cost way communities can provide safe play opportunities by activating public spaces. Four low-income rural communities received mini-grants to implement four three-hour Play Streets throughout summer 2017 for a total of 16 Play Streets. System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) and iSOPARC® were used to assess PA. Chi-squared tests of homogeneity determined significant differences in the proportion of children observed as active based on sex and target area type. Binomial logistic regression was used to determine if target area characteristics (i.e., type, equipped, supervised, organized) and presence of other active children or adults increased the odds of observing a child as active. In total, 1,750 children were observed across all 16 Play Streets; roughly half of all children (48.6% of males, 48.7% of females) were observed as active. There was no significant difference in proportion of children observed as active based on sex of the child (OR=0.99, 95% CI:0.82-1.20). Significant differences in the proportion of active children were found between target area categories. Males were significantly more likely to be observed as active in areas which were equipped or organized. All children were significantly more likely to be active if there was another active child present in the same area. These results add to the growing literature surrounding successful implementation of Play Streets in rural settings, social influence, and active play.



Baranowski, T., O'Connor, T., Johnston, C., Hughes, S., Moreno, J., Chen, T. A., Meltzer, L., & Baranowski, J. (2014). School year versus summer differences in child weight gain: A narrative review. Childhood Obesity, 10(1), 18–24. https://doi.org/10.1089/chi.2013.0116

Beets, M. W., Cardinal, B. J., & Alderman, B. L. (2010). Parental social support and the physical activity-related behaviors of youth: A review. Health Education Behavior, 37(5), 621–644. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198110363884

Bolin, J. N., Bellamy, G. R., Ferdinand, A. O., Vuong, A. M., Kash, B. A., Schulze, A., & Helduser, J. W. (2015). Rural Healthy People 2020: New decade, same challenges. The Journal of Rural Health, 31(3), 326–333. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12116

Brazendale, K., Beets, M. W., Weaver, R. G., Pate, R. R., Turner-McGrievy, G. M., Kaczynski, A. T., Chandler, J. L., Bohnert, A., & von Hippel, P. T. (2017). Understanding differences between summer vs. school obesogenic behaviors of children: The structured days hypothesis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(1), 100. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0555-2

Bridges, C. N., Prochnow, T. M., Wilkins, E. C., Pollack Porter, K. M., & Umstattd Meyer, M. R. (2020). Examining the implementation of Play Streets: A systematic review of the grey literature. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 26(3), E1–E10. https://doi.org/10.1097/PHH.0000000000001015

Cooper, A. R., Goodman, A., Page, A. S., Sherar, L. B., Esliger, D. W., van Sluijs, E. M., Andersen, L. B., Anderssen, S., Cardon, G., Davey, R., Froberg, K., Hallal, P., Janz, K. F., Kordas, K., Kreimler, S., Pate, R. R., Puder, J. J., Reilly, J. J., Salmon, J., Sardinha, L. B., Timperio, A., & Ekelund, U. (2015). Objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time in youth: The International Children's Accelerometry Database (ICAD). International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12(1), 113. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-015-0274-5

Corominas, L., Fernandez-Ansorena, A., Martinez-Cepas, P., Sanpera, J., & Obieta, A. (2018). Are inflatable play structures really safe for our children? Journal of Children's Orthopaedics, 12(3), 282–287. https://doi.org/10.1302/1863-2548.12.170191

Daly, C. M., Foote, S. J., & Wadsworth, D. D. (2017). Physical activity, sedentary behavior, fruit and vegetable consumption and access: what influences obesity in rural children? Journal of Community Health, 42(5), 968–973. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-017-0343-6

Davis, A. M., Bennett, K. J., Befort, C., & Nollen, N. (2011). Obesity and related health behaviors among urban and rural children in the United States: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2004 and 2005–2006. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 36(6), 669–676. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsq117

Donnelly, J. E., Hillman, C. H., Castelli, D., Etnier, J. L., Lee, S., Tomporowski, P., Lambourne, K., & Szabo-Reed, A. N. (2016). Physical activity, fitness, cognitive function, and academic achievement in children: A systematic review. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(6), 1197–1222. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000000901

Economic Research Service. (n.d.). Rural-urban commuting area codes. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/rural-urban-commuting-area-codes.aspx

Eimear, K., Xia, L., Janas, M. H., Anthony, P. F., Ivan, J. P., & Patricia, M. K. (2017). Physical activity, sedentary behavior and the risk of overweight and obesity in school-aged children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 29(3), 408–418. https://doi.org/10.1123/pes.2016-0234

Elbe, A.-M., Wikman, J. M., Zheng, M., Larsen, M. N., Nielsen, G., & Krustrup, P. (2017). The importance of cohesion and enjoyment for the fitness improvement of 8–10-year-old children participating in a team and individual sport school-based physical activity intervention. European Journal of Sport Science, 17(3), 343–350. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2016.1260641

Evenson, K. R., Jones, S. A., Holliday, K. M., Cohen, D. A., & McKenzie, T. L. (2016). Park characteristics, use, and physical activity: A review of studies using SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities). Preventive Medicine, 86, 153–166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.02.029

Fu, Y., Brusseau, T. A., Hannon, J. C., & Burns, R. D. (2017). Effect of a 12-week summer break on school day physical activity and health-related fitness in low-income children from CSPAP schools. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2017, Article 9760817. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2017/9760817

Hansen, A. Y., Umstattd Meyer, M. R., Lenardson, J. D., & Hartley, D. (2015). Built environments and active living in rural and remote areas: A review of the literature. Current Obesity Reports, 4(4), 484–493. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-015-0180-9

Hesketh, K. R., Lakshman, R., & van Sluijs, E. M. F. (2017). Barriers and facilitators to young children's physical activity and sedentary behaviour: A systematic review and synthesis of qualitative literature. Obesity Reviews, 18(9), 987–1017. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12562

Johnson, J. A., & Johnson, A. M. (2015). Urban-rural differences in childhood and adolescent obesity in the United States: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Childhood Obesity, 11(3), 233–241. https://doi.org/10.1089/chi.2014.0085

Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Queen, B., Lowry, R., Chyen, D., Whittle, L., Thornton, J., Lim, C., Bradford, D., Yamakawa, Y., Leon, M., Brener, N., & Ethier, K. A. (2018). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2017. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 67(8), 1–114. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6708a1

Kenney, M. K., Wang, J., & Iannotti, R. (2014). Residency and racial/ethnic differences in weight status and lifestyle behaviors among US youth. Journal of Rural Health, 30(1), 89–100. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12034

Kranjac, A. W., & Wagmiller, R. L. (2019). Decomposing trends in child obesity. Population Research and Policy Review, 39, 375–388(2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-019-09544-z

Loucaides, C. A., & Tsangaridou, N. (2017). Associations between parental and friend social support and children’s physical activity and time spent outside playing. International Journal of Pediatrics, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/7582398

Marquet, O., Hipp, J. A., Alberico, C., Huang, J.-H., Fry, D., Mazak, E., Lovasi, G. S., & Floyd, M. F. (2019). Use of SOPARC to assess physical activity in parks: Do race/ethnicity, contextual conditions, and settings of the target area, affect reliability? BMC Public Health, 19(1), Article 1730. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-8107-0

Martin, A., Booth, J. N., Laird, Y., Sproule, J., Reilly, J. J., & Saunders, D. H. (2018). Physical activity, diet and other behavioural interventions for improving cognition and school achievement in children and adolescents with obesity or overweight. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009728.pub4

Mâsse, L. C., O’Connor, T. M., Tu, A. W., Hughes, S. O., Beauchamp, M. R., & Baranowski, T. (2017). Conceptualizing physical activity parenting practices using expert informed concept mapping analysis. BMC Public Health, 17(1), Article 574. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4487-1

McCormack, L. A., & Meendering, J. (2016). Diet and physical activity in rural vs urban children and adolescents in the United States: A narrative review. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 467–480. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.10.024

McKenzie, T. L., Cohen, D. A., Sehgal, A., Williamson, S., & Golinelli, D. (2006). System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC): Reliability and feasibility measures. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 3(Suppl 1), S208–S222.

Moore, J. B., Yin, Z., Hanes, J., Duda, J., Gutin, B., & Barbeau, P. (2009). Measuring enjoyment of physical activity in children: Validation of the physical activity enjoyment scale. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21(Suppl 1), S116–S129. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200802593612

Perrin, A. J., Caren, N., Skinner, A. C., Odulana, A., & Perrin, E. M. (2016). The unbuilt environment: Culture moderates the built environment for physical activity. BMC Public Health, 16(1), Article 1227.https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-3866-3

Piercy, K. L., Troiano, R. P., Ballard, R. M., Carlson, S. A., Fulton, J. E., Galuska, D. A., George, S. M., & Olson, R. D. (2018). The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Journal of the American Medical Association, 320(19), 2020–2028.https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.14854

Pollack Porter, K. M., Bridges Hamilton, C. N., & Umstattd Meyer, M. R. (2020). Implementing Play Streets in low-income rural communities in the United States. Health Promotion Practice. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524839920957228

Pollack Porter, K. M., Prochnow, T., Mahoney, P., Delgado, H., Bridges Hamilton, C. N., Wilkins, E., & Umstattd Meyer, M. R. (2019). Transforming city streets to promote physical activity and health equity. Health Affairs, 38(9), 1475–1483. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00454

Pollack Porter, K. M., & Umstattd Meyer, M. R. (2019). Guide to implementing Play Streets in rural communities. https://www.baylor.edu/publichealth/index.php?id=961864

Powell, L. M., Slater, S., Chaloupka, F. J., & Harper, D. (2006). Availability of physical activity-related facilities and neighborhood demographic and socioeconomic characteristics: A national study. American Journal of Public Health, 96(9), 1676–1680. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2005.065573

Probst, J. C., Barker, J. C., Enders, A., & Gardiner, P. (2018). Current state of child health in rural America: How context shapes children's health. The Journal of Rural Health, 34, s3–s12. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12222

Prochnow, T., Delgado, H., Patterson, M. S., & Umstattd Meyer, M. R. (2020). Social network analysis in child and adolescent physical activity research: A systematic literature review. J Phys Act Health, 17(2), 250–260. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2019-0350

Prochnow, T., Umstattd Meyer, M. R., & Pollack Porter, K. (2020). I play, you play, we play: Concurrent activity at Play Streets. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2020.1792399

Reiner, M., Niermann, C., Jekauc, D., & Woll, A. (2013). Long-term health benefits of physical activity—A systematic review of longitudinal studies. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 813. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-813

Sallis, J. F., Conway, T. L., Cain, K. L., Geremia, C., Bonilla, E., & Spoon, C. (2019). Race/ethnic variations in school-year versus summer differences in adolescent physical activity. Preventive Medicine, 129, Article 105795. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.105795

Salvy, S. J., Roemmich, J. N., Bowker, J. C., Romero, N. D., Stadler, P. J., & Epstein, L. H. (2009). Effect of peers and friends on youth physical activity and motivation to be physically active. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34(2), 217–225. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsn071

Santos, M. P. M., Rech, C. R., Alberico, C. O., Fermino, R. C., Rios, A. P., David, J., Reis, R. S., Sarmiento, O. L., McKenzie, T. L., & Mota, J. (2016). Utility and reliability of an app for the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (iSOPARC®). Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 20(2) 93–98. https://doi.org/10.1080/1091367X.2015.1120733

Schulz, A., Mentz, G., Johnson-Lawrence, V., Israel, B. A., Max, P., Zenk, S. N., Wineman, J., & Marans, R. W. (2013). Independent and joint associations between multiple measures of the built and social environment and physical activity in a multi-ethnic urban community. Journal of Urban Health, 90(5), 872–887. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-013-9793-z

Shervey, S. W., & DiPerna, J. C. (2017). Engagement in physical activity during recess: Gender and grade level differences in the elementary grades. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 14(9), 677–683. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2014-0499

Suglia, S. F., Shelton, R. C., Hsiao, A., Wang, Y. C., Rundle, A., & Link, B. G. (2016). Why the neighborhood social environment is critical in obesity prevention. Journal of Urban Health, 93(1), 206–212. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-015-0017-6

Thompson, M. C., Chounthirath, T., Xiang, H., & Smith, G. A. (2012). Pediatric inflatable bouncer–related injuries in the United States, 1990–2010. Pediatrics, 130(6), 1076–1083. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2012-0473

Umstattd Meyer, M. R., Bridges, C. N., Schmid, T. L., Hecht, A. A., & Pollack Porter, K. M. (2019). Systematic review of how Play Streets impact opportunities for active play, physical activity, neighborhoods, and communities. BMC Public Health, 19(1), Article 335. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6609-4

Umstattd Meyer, M. R., Bridges Hamilton, C. N., Prochnow, T., McClendon, M. E., Arnold, K. T., Wilkins, E., Benavidez, G., Williams, T. D., Abildso, C. G., & Pollack Porter, K. M. (2019). Come together, play, be active: Physical activity engagement of school-age children at Play Streets in four diverse rural communities in the U.S. Preventive Medicine, 129, Article 105869. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.105869

Umstattd Meyer, M. R., Moore, J. B., Abildso, C., Edwards, M. B., Gamble, A., & Baskin, M. L. (2016). Rural active living: A call to action. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 22(5), E11–E20. https://doi.org/10.1097/PHH.0000000000000333

Umstattd Meyer, M. R., Prochnow, T., Bridges, C. N., Carlton, T., Wilkins, E., Arnold, K. T., McClendon, M. E., McKenzie, T., & Pollack Porter, K. M. (2019). Assessing physical activity in temporary spaces: Application of SOPARC/iSOPARC® for Play Streets. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 91(2), 346–353. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2019.1656793

Umstattd Meyer, M. R., Walsh, S. M., Sharkey, J. R., Morgan, G. B., & Nalty, C. C. (2014). Physical and social environmental characteristics of physical activity for Mexican-origin children: Examining differences between school year and summer perceptions. BMC Public Health, 14, Article 958. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-958

Veitch, J., van Stralen, M. M., Chinapaw, M. J. M., te Velde, S. J., Crawford, D., Salmon, J., & Timperio, A. (2012). The neighborhood social environment and body mass index among youth: A mediation analysis. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9(31). https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-9-31

Warburton, D. E. R., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2017). Health benefits of physical activity: A systematic review of current systematic reviews. Current Opinion in Cardiology, 32(5), 541–556. https://doi.org/10.1097/HCO.0000000000000437

Weaver, R. G., Beets, M. W., Brazendale, K., & Brusseau, T. A. (2019). Summer weight gain and fitness loss: Causes and potential solutions. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 13(2), 116–128. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827617750576

Zieff, S. G., Chaudhuri, A., & Musselman, E. (2016). Creating neighborhood recreational space for youth and children in the urban environment: Play(ing in the) Streets in San Francisco. Children and Youth Services Review, 70, 95–101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.09.014

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2020 Array