Objectives: We evaluated the effect of providing a safe play space on the physical activity level of inner-city schoolchildren.
Methods: In 1 of 2 matched neighborhoods, we opened a schoolyard and provided attendants to ensure children's safety. Over the next 2 years we directly observed the number of children and their physical activity levels in the school-yard, as well as in the surrounding intervention and comparison neighborhoods. We also surveyed children in the schools in the intervention and comparison neighborhoods regarding sedentary activities.
Results: After the schoolyard was opened, a mean of 71.4 children used it on weekdays and 25.8 used it on weekends during the school year. When observed, 66% of these children were physically active. The number of children who were outdoors and physically active was 84% higher in the intervention neighborhood than the comparison neighborhood. Survey results showed that children in the intervention school reported declines relative to the children in the comparison school in watching television, watching movies and DVDs, and playing video games on weekdays.
Conclusion: When children were provided with a safe play space, we observed a relative increase in their physical activity. Provision of safe play spaces holds promise as a simple replicable intervention.