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Kids from lower income families play outside more: study

Five-year-olds who live in public housing play outside more than other city kids - 13 per cent more a day, according to an American study that looked at 1,800 children.

The study, conducted by researchers at Princeton, Columbia and Rice universities, has implications for preventing obesity in kids - as well as urban planning.

The findings surprised the researchers, who had hypothesized that children living in poorer conditions would be playing outside less.

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Instead they found that, "Children living in places of high physical disorder - areas with visible graffiti, trash, and abandoned homes - also played outside more per day," according to a release for the study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine.

"It's possible that children living in public housing have access to community playgrounds and courtyards for children to play outdoors, which could be why we see more outside play time for them," said lead author Rachel Kimbro.

The researchers also found that children scored 1.5 per cent lower body mass index for each extra hour they played outside over the time they spent watching TV.

High BMI is related to higher risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, among other health problems.

"A key to solving obesity problems among poor, urban children is to create safe and open spaces where these kids can play, because now we know that they are outside playing," Prof. Kimbro said.

Mom also counts: the researchers found that a mother's perception of the way her neighbourhood looks and feels socially related to how much her children would end up playing outdoors each week.

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