File(s) under permanent embargo

A prospective examination of children's time spent outdoors, objectively measured physical activity and overweight

journal contribution
posted on 2008-11-01, 00:00 authored by Verity Cleland, David CrawfordDavid Crawford, L Baur, Clare Hume, Anna TimperioAnna Timperio, Jo SalmonJo Salmon
Objective: This study aimed to determine whether time spent outdoors was associated with objectively measured physical activity, body mass index (BMI) z-score and overweight in elementary-school aged children, cross-sectionally and prospectively over 3 years.
Methods: Three-year cohort study with data collected during 2001 and 2004. Nineteen randomly selected state elementary schools across Melbourne, Australia. One hundred and eighty eight 5–6-year-old and 360 10–12-year-old children. Baseline parent reports of children’s time spent outdoors during warmer and cooler months, on weekdays and weekends. At baseline and follow-up, children’s moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was objectively assessed by accelerometry, and BMI zscore and overweight was calculated from measured height and weight.
Results: Cross-sectionally, each additional hour outdoors on weekdays and weekend days during the cooler months was associated with an extra 27 min week-1 MVPA among older girls, and with an extra 20 min week-1 MVPA among older boys. Longitudinally, more time outdoors on weekends predicted higher MVPA on weekends among older girls and boys (5 min week-1). The prevalence of overweight among older children at follow-up was 27–41% lower among those spending more time outdoors at baseline.
Conclusion: Encouraging 10–12-year-old children to spend more time outdoors may be an effective strategy for increasing physical activity and preventing increases in overweight and obesity. Intervention research investigating the effect of increasing time outdoors on children’s physical activity and overweight is warranted.



International journal of obesity






1685 - 1693


Nature Publishing Group


Basingstoke, England







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2008, Macmillan Publishers Limited