Can Childhood Activity Level and Outdoor Experience Predict Adult Outdoor Exposure, Physical Activity, and Body Mass Index?: A Retrospective Approach

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

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Previously, research has explored connecting children with nature (Louv, 2005, Wells, 2006). More recently, work has focused on adults and the experience of “nature deficit disorder” which asserts that adults lack connection to nature (Louv, 2011). Studies have compared the relationship between adults’ current levels of nature exposure and preference for physical activities with their childhood experiences (Thompson et al., 2008, Henniger, 1994). These studies suggest that there is a correspondence between childhood experiences and adult preferences. A competing factor is the increased presence of electronic media which is associated with decreased levels of physical activity, thus a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) (Fotheringham, 2000) (CDC, 2001, 2005). The present study explores the relationship between current adulthood outdoor activity level and preferences, retrospective childhood exposure, and BMI. An adult survey will be completed by college students. Questions inquire about current outdoor/indoor activity, preference and frequency, childhood activity preference, technology use, and self-reported BMI. The adult survey will be analyzed to find correlations between retrospective childhood activity preference and current activity preference, technology use, and outdoor activity preference and BMI. BMI-for-age was also computed for preschool participants. An interview assessed each child’s favorite and least favorite activities, affinity for inside/outside activities, and sedentary/dynamic activities. We predict that there will be a positive correlation between adults’ retrospective outdoor activity preferences and current activity level. We expect that greater technology use will be associated with higher BMI and lower outdoor activity level. We anticipate that adults’ current outdoor activity level and their BMI will be inversely related. If there are no significant differences between the adult retrospective and current preschoolers’ perspectives, we suggest that the preschoolers may be on a similar trajectory toward the adults’ current BMI, nature exposure, and activity level practices which has implications for future health.

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