The objective of the research was to assess how proximity to parks and recreational resources affects the development of childhood obesity through a longitudinal study. Data were collected on 3173 children aged 9-10 from 12 communities in Southern California in 1993 and 1996. Children were followed for eight years to collect longitudinal information, including objectively measured body mass index (BMI). Multilevel growth curve models were used to assess associations between attained BMI growth at age 18 and numerous environmental variables, including park space and recreational program access. For park acres within a 500 m distance of children's homes, there were significant inverse associations with attained BMI at age 18. Effect sizes were larger for boys than for girls. Recreation programs within a 10 km buffer of children's homes were significantly and inversely associated with achieved levels in BMI at age 18, with effect sizes for boys also larger than those for girls. We conclude that children with better access to parks and recreational resources are less likely to experience significant increases in attained BMI.
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