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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

A place for play? The influence of the home physical environment on children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour

Clover Maitland1*, Gareth Stratton12, Sarah Foster3, Rebecca Braham1 and Michael Rosenberg1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

2 Applied Sports Technology Exercise Medicine Research Centre, School of Engineering, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, Wales

3 Centre for Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, 10 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:99  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-99

Published: 17 August 2013


The home environment is an important influence on the sedentary behaviour and physical activity of children, who have limited independent mobility and spend much of their time at home. This article reviews the current evidence regarding the influence of the home physical environment on the sedentary behaviour and physical activity of children aged 8–14 years. A literature search of peer reviewed articles published between 2005 and 2011 resulted in 38 observational studies (21 with activity outcomes, 23 with sedentary outcomes) and 11 experimental studies included in the review. The most commonly investigated behavioural outcomes were television watching and moderate to vigorous physical activity. Media equipment in the home and to a lesser extent the bedroom were positively associated with children’s sedentary behaviour. Physical activity equipment and the house and yard were not associated with physical activity, although environmental measures were exclusively self-reported. On the other hand, physical activity equipment was inversely associated with sedentary behaviours in half of studies. Observational studies that investigated the influence of the physical and social environment within the home space, found that the social environment, particularly the role of parents, was important. Experimental studies that changed the home physical environment by introducing a television limiting device successfully decreased television viewing, whereas the influence of introducing an active video game on activity outcomes was inconsistent. Results highlight that the home environment is an important influence on children’s sedentary behaviour and physical activity, about which much is still unknown. While changing or controlling the home physical environment shows promise for reducing screen based sedentary behaviour, further interventions are needed to understand the broader impact of these changes. Future studies should prioritise investigating the influence of the home physical environment, and its interaction with the social environment, on objectively measured sedentary time and home context specific behaviours, ideally including technologies that allow objective measures of the home space.

Home environment; Physical activity; Sedentary behaviour; Children; Adolescents; Review