Built Environment Correlates of Walking: A Review

Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA.
Medicine &amp Science in Sports &amp Exercise (Impact Factor: 3.98). 08/2008; 40(7 Suppl):S550-66. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817c67a4
Source: PubMed


The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in empirical investigation into the relations between built environment and physical activity. To create places that facilitate and encourage walking, practitioners need an understanding of the specific characteristics of the built environment that correlate most strongly with walking. This article reviews evidence on the built environment correlates with walking.
Included in this review were 13 reviews published between 2002 and 2006 and 29 original studies published in 2005 and up through May 2006. Results were summarized based on specific characteristics of the built environment and transportation walking versus recreational walking.
Previous reviews and newer studies document consistent positive relations between walking for transportation and density, distance to nonresidential destinations, and land use mix; findings for route/network connectivity, parks and open space, and personal safety are more equivocal. Results regarding recreational walking were less clear.
More recent evidence supports the conclusions of prior reviews, and new studies address some of the limitations of earlier studies. Although prospective studies are needed, evidence on correlates appears sufficient to support policy changes.

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Available from: Brian Saelens, Jan 06, 2014
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    • "We assume that people receive private utility from walking in a residential neighbourhood. We further assume 'weak complementarity' between walking and a neighbourhood's pedestrian characteristics: as a neighbourhood becomes more walkable, walking in the neighbourhood increases (Saelens and Handy, 2008; Wilson et al., 2011). This latter assumption allows us to build a utility function that permits us to model changes in a public good e improvement in neighbourhood pedestrian characteristics e and to trace these changes to changes in consumption of a complementary private good e individual walking activity in the neighbourhood. "
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    ABSTRACT: Walking is the most common form of moderate-intensity physical activity among adults, is widely accessible and especially appealing to obese people. Most often policy makers are interested in valuing the effect on walking of changes in some characteristics of a neighbourhood, the demand response for walking, of infrastructure changes. A positive demand response to improvements in the walking environment could help meet the public health target of 150 min of at least moderate-intensity physical activity per week. We model walking in an individual's local neighbourhood as a 'weak complement' to the characteristics of the neighbourhood itself. Walking is affected by neighbourhood characteristics, substitutes, and individual's characteristics, including their opportunity cost of time. Using compensating variation, we assess the economic benefits of walking and how walking behaviour is affected by improvements to the neighbourhood. Using a sample of 1209 respondents surveyed over a 12 month period (Feb 2010-Jan 2011) in East Belfast, United Kingdom, we find that a policy that increased walkability and people's perception of access to shops and facilities would lead to an increase in walking of about 36 min/person/week, valued at £13.65/person/week. When focussing on inactive residents, a policy that improved the walkability of the area would lead to guidelines for physical activity being reached by only 12.8% of the population who are currently inactive. Additional interventions would therefore be needed to encourage inactive residents to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity, as it appears that interventions that improve the walkability of an area are particularly effective in increasing walking among already active citizens, and, among the inactive ones, the best response is found among healthier, younger and wealthier citizens.
    Social Science [?] Medicine 09/2015; 143:107-116. DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.08.033 · 2.89 Impact Factor
    • "For policy makers, an evidence base is emerging regarding the built environment factors that shape decision-making and behaviour related to active modes of travel within adults. The potential built environment factors at play include functional aspects such as: the distance between places; street design and geometry; the connectivity of streets; path infrastructure, aesthetic qualities; safety; the mix of land uses; and the proximity and quality of destinations (Olaru and Curtis, 2015; Saelens and Handy, 2008; Pikora et al., 2003; Bagley and Mokhtarian, 2002; Crane, 2000; Kitamura et al., 1997; Cervero and Radisch, 1996). The relationship is likely more nuanced – moderated by journey purpose-for example , in a study in Adelaide, Owen et al. (2007) found that street connectivity was associated with walking for transport, but not for recreation, indicating that built environment factors are associated with different types of walking activities in different ways. "
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    ABSTRACT: The decline in children's active travel has significant implications for urban planning and sustainable mobility. This research explores the influence of built environment on children's travel to school across a range of typical urban environments in Australia. The analysis draws on a sample of children and their parents from nine primary schools across four urban regions: Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Rockhampton. The built environment features for each school neighbourhood are measured. An analysis of travel, socio-demographics and attitudes to travel is conducted. The findings indicate that children residing in built environments that are more dense and urban are significantly associated with more active travel to school and for other journey purposes. Distance to school is critical for active travel (AT) and many children lived beyond walking distance. While built environment is important, a decisive role for children's active travel to school and other places is seen in the combination of preferences and licences. Children who AT prefer to be more autonomous/independent travellers and have parents who foster their IM; conversely, children's preferences for being driven coincides with parents' fears for IM and lack of confidence in their children abilities to travel independently.
    Transport Policy 08/2015; 42. DOI:10.1016/j.tranpol.2015.04.003 · 1.72 Impact Factor
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    • "Over the past decade extensive research has been dedicated to the relationship between the built environment and walking (Sallis et al., 2012; Harris et al., 2013). Relatively consistent associations between certain perceived and objectively measured neighborhood attributes (e.g., residential density, mixed land use, and perceived esthetics, and distance to destinations) and walking have been reported for children, adolescents and young and middle-aged adults (Ding et al., 2011; Saelens and Handy, 2008). However, according to systematic reviews (van Cauwenberg et al., 2011; Hanson et al., 2012), in older populations (N60 years) the relationships between the same environmental attributes and walking have been inconsistent. "
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    ABSTRACT: In older adults the relationships between health, fall-related risk factors, perceived neighborhood walkability, walking behavior and intervention impacts are poorly understood. To determine whether: i) health and fall-related risk factors were associated with perceptions of neighborhood walkability; ii) perceived environmental attributes, and fall-related risk factors predicted change in walking behavior at 12 months; and iii) perceived environmental attributes and fall-related risk factors moderated the effect of a self-paced walking program on walking behavior. Randomized trial on walking and falls conducted between 2009 and 2012 involving 315 community-dwelling inactive adults ≥ 65 years living in Sydney, Australia. Measures were: mobility status, fall history, injurious fall and fear of falling (i.e., fall-related risk factors), health status, walking self-efficacy and 11 items from the neighborhood walkability scale and planned walking ≥ 150 min/week at 12 months. Participants with poorer mobility, fear of falling, and poor health perceived their surroundings as less walkable. Walking at 12 months was significantly greater in “less greenery” (AOR = 3.3, 95% CI: 1.11–9.98) and “high traffic” (AOR = 1.98, 95% CI: 1.00–3.91) neighborhoods. The intervention had greater effects in neighborhoods perceived to have poorer pedestrian infrastructure (p for interaction = 0.036). Low perceived walkability was shaped by health status and did not appear to be a barrier to walking behavior. There appears to be a greater impact of, and thus, need for, interventions to encourage walking in environments perceived not to have supportive walking infrastructure. Future studies on built environments and walking should gather information on fall-related risk factors to better understand how these characteristics interact.
    08/2015; 2:704-710. DOI:10.1016/j.pmedr.2015.08.011
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