PEAR stands for Physical Environment and Activity Relationships (in adolescents). The purpose of the PEAR Project is to determine which measures of the physical and social environment relate to objectively measured time spent physically active in different locations in UK adolescents aged 13 to 16 years.  This project builds on existing work that has been done in the PEACH Project and is designed to explore the complicated relationship between young people’s activity patterns and features of the environment around them.  PEAR aims to advance our understanding in this area and enhance the effectiveness of future policies and interventions designed to increase physical activity.

Physical Activity and Health

Physical activity is important for children to help prevent excess weight gain, to support optimal bone growth and to avoid disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  There is also evidence that increased physical activity is associated with better psychological health in children, with gains in well being that are independent of social class and health status.  In addition, being physically active and playing provides children with the opportunity for developing creative and social skills (1).

Although children are generally more active than their parents and other adults many children are not taking part in sufficient physical activity to protect their health.   Research suggests that features of the physical environment may act as barriers or facilitators to physical activity, particularly during childhood and adolescence when young people have less autonomy in their behaviours and are more likely than adults to be influenced by the environment, directly or indirectly through parents or peers. (2, 3)

What can we do?

Manipulating the physical as well as the social environment has the potential to increase the reach and effectiveness of health interventions to increase physical activity.  However evidence relating the physical environment to physical activity has been limited by methodological problems.  The major limitation is that most studies relate features of the environment to places that they think adolescents visit for physical activity rather than places they actually go to visit and it is not clear to what extent existing measures of the environment are relevant to UK adolescents. 

In PEACH and PEAR we address this problem by using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers to objectively measure actual places visited by adolescents in relation to how active they are (measured by an accelerometer), and support our findings using questionnaire data from the children.  You can find out more about the GPS monitoring, the activity monitoring and the PEACH and PEAR questionnaires in the Design & Methods section of this website.


1. Department of Health.  2011.  Start Active Stay Active.  A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. Department of Health

2. K.K. Davison, C.T. Lawson. Do attributes in the physical environment influence children's physical activity?A review of the literature. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 3 (2006)

3. J.R. Panter, A.P. Jones, E.M. van Sluijs. Environmental determinants of active travel in youth: a review and framework for future research. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 5 (2008)


The PEAR Project is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).     

The MRC encourages and supports research with the aim of maintaining and improving human health. The MRC focuses on high-impact research and has provided the financial support and scientific expertise behind a number of medical breakthroughs, including the development of penicillin and the discovery of the structure of DNA. Research funded by the MRC has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners to date.


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