The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) recently published Identification of Effective Programs to Improve Access to and Use of Trails among Youth from Under-Resourced Communities: A Review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
One of NCCOR’s major goals is to address health disparities related to nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. This review was supported by NCCOR members from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, in collaboration with staff from the Federal Highway Administration, to explore the underuse of trails by youth as a health-enhancing behavior to engage in outdoor recreational physical activity. Low levels of trail use are pronounced among youth from under-resourced, low income neighborhoods including racial and ethnic minority groups, who may benefit greatly from the physical, mental/emotional, and social benefits of trail use.
The primary aim of this review paper was to identify programs and policies that effectively promote and increase the use of trails among youth, especially those from under-resourced neighborhoods or communities. Three additional goals of the review included identifying (1) correlates of physical activity/trail use and features of transportation systems or built environment and land use destinations that may inform and support the planning and implementation of programs to promote trail use among youth, (2) benefits associated with trail use, and (3) barriers to trail use.
Importantly, no studies were located that evaluated programs designed to promote and increase trail use among youth. Thus, this new research publication vividly highlights the lack of scientific evidence that addresses the underrepresentation of trail use by youth from under-resourced communities. Correlates of physical activity with transportation systems (e.g., trail access, road traffic congestion related to safe active travel, lack of sidewalks, proximity to trails, access to transportation), destinations (e.g., park availability and access, park improvements, greenspaces), or both routes and destinations (e.g., perceptions of safety, lighting) were identified. These correlates may support the planning and implementation of community programs to increase trail use among youth and greater program participation by connecting trails or routes to such future destinations. A benefit to trail use is an increase in physical activity behavior. One study also found that access to more greenspace was associated with better health-related quality of life and self-esteem among children. Barriers to trail use included costs, crime, lack of transportation, lack of role models using trails, and institutional discrimination.
A companion brief based on a review of programs and practices related to trails use among youth from under-resourced communities or neighborhoods will soon be published at www.nccor.org/.
The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) brings together four of the nation’s leading research funders—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—to accelerate progress in reducing childhood obesity in America.