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Environment, Design, and Obesity Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research



This article presents a framework for considering the relevance of the physical environment to obesity. The authors adopt the notion that the “environment” constitutes the space outside the person and therefore broaden the common conceptualization of the “environment” to encompass a full spectrum from small-scale design elements to large-scale community infrastructure. An energy balance approach is also adopted. The energy balance perspective recognizes the equilibrium of food consumption and energy expenditure, rather than focusing solely on one or the other side of the equation. The authors consider how environmental characteristics present either barriers (that hinder), or supports (that promote) healthy habits. Thus, they describe a range of obesity-related environmental themes that provide opportunities for innovative collaborative research between environmental psychologists and colleagues in fields ranging from apparel design to landscape architecture. Last, conceptual and methodological considerations are briefly presented.
Environment, Design,
and Obesity
Opportunities for Interdisciplinary
Collaborative Research
Nancy M. Wells
Susan P. Ashdown
Elizabeth H. S. Davies
F. D. Cowett
Cornell University
Yizhao Yang
University of Oregon
This article presents a framework for considering the relevance of the physical
environment to obesity. The authors adopt the notion that the “environment”
constitutes the space outside the person and therefore broaden the common
conceptualization of the “environment” to encompass a full spectrum from
small-scale design elements to large-scale community infrastructure. An
energy balance approach is also adopted. The energy balance perspective rec-
ognizes the equilibrium of food consumption and energy expenditure, rather
than focusing solely on one or the other side of the equation. The authors con-
sider how environmental characteristics present either barriers (that hinder), or
supports (that promote) healthy habits. Thus, they describe a range of obesity-
related environmental themes that provide opportunities for innovative collab-
orative research between environmental psychologists and colleagues in fields
ranging from apparel design to landscape architecture. Last, conceptual and
methodological considerations are briefly presented.
Keywords: environment; dietary intake; interdisciplinary; obesity; physical
Environment and Behavior
Volume 39 Number 1
January 2007 6-33
© 2007 Sage Publications
hosted at
Authors’ Note: An earlier version of this article was presented at the Ecology of Obesity:
Linking Science and Action conference at the College of Human Ecology (Wells & Ashdown,
2005). Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nancy M. Wells, Department
of Design and Environmental Analysis, E220 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University,
Ithaca, NY 14850; e-mail:
The purpose of this article is to describe and illustrate the broad relevance
of environments to the study of obesity. Although the physical environ-
ment may influence obesity in a variety of ways, research efforts linking the
environment and obesity within the fields of environmental psychology,
urban planning, and the hybrid “active living research” have primarily
focused on the associations of neighborhood design and streetscape charac-
teristics with physical activity patterns (Alfonzo, 2005; Humpel, Owen, &
Leslie, 2002; Saelens, Sallis, & Frank, 2003) and how sprawl is correlated
with obesity (Ewing, Schmid, Killingsworth, Zlot, & Raudenbush, 2003).
This article provides a framework to facilitate a broadening of research
themes associating the environment with obesity but is not intended to be an
exhaustive review of the literature.
Three themes provide parameters for this article and contribute to a broad-
ened perspective intended to enable and inspire environment-behavior
researchers to contribute more fully to obesity-related research. First, according
to ecological models of behavior, environment refers to the space outside of the
person (Sallis & Owen, 2002). This definition of environment provides a start-
ing point for consciously expanding our perspective on environment–obesity
linkages. Although ecological models do include a cross-context perspec-
tive, most empirical research in environmental psychology applying an
ecological model has focused on neighborhoods. Herein, we consider envi-
ronment to include clothing, food packaging and presentation, technology,
buildings, natural areas, neighborhoods, and urban design. This broad
conceptualization of environment is intentionally employed in an effort to
allow environment-behavior researchers to stretch beyond the familiar to
consider a wider spectrum of possible applications and collaborations and
thereby to extend the potential contribution of environmental psychologists
in addressing the obesity epidemic. Second, it is useful to note that there are
two sides to the energy balance equation: energy in (dietary intake) and
energy out (basal metabolism and, more tractable, physical activity). This
equation focuses on the equilibrium of food consumption and energy
expenditure, rather than targeting just one side of the equation (Hill &
Peters, 1998). Much of the research effort within environmental psychol-
ogy has focused on energy expenditure—that is, physical activity. However,
environmental psychology researchers can also contribute to the study of
dietary intake, the other side of the obesity equation. A third perspective
adopted in this article is the consideration of environmental barriers that
hinder healthy eating and discourage physical activity as well as environ-
mental supports that encourage these healthy behaviors. Barriers are
obstacles. In this case, barriers are features in the environment that deter a
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 7
8 Environment and Behavior
person from physical activity and/or healthy eating. Supports,1on the other
hand, are environmental elements that foster or promote certain actions or
behaviors—that is, physical activity and healthy eating. In this article, we
consider the role of a wide range of environmental variables in promoting
and discouraging physical activity and healthy diet across a variety of con-
texts and scales.
Figure 1 provides a conceptual framework integrating the three themes: a
broad definition of the environment, energy balance, and environmental bar-
riers and environmental supports. Consistent with an ecological perspective,
we recognize factors such as biology, demographic variables, social and cul-
tural influences, psychological factors, organizational influences, and policy
(National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2004); however, they are not the
focus in this framework. As Figure 1 shows, physical environment charac-
teristics that present barriers to healthy eating and physical activity are asso-
ciated with increased energy intake and decreased energy output,
respectively, yielding an imbalance in favor of energy input. Conversely,
environmental characteristics that support physical activity and foster
healthy eating are likely to be associated with lower caloric intake and
greater energy expenditure, making energy balance more probable. Energy
balance or imbalance, in turn, is associated with weight status (i.e., healthy
weight, overweight, obese) and related health risks. It is worth pointing out
Figure 1
Conceptual Framework Linking the Environment
With Weight and Health Outcomes
Energy (Im)Balance
Other Factors:
Physical Environment
Clothing… Plates + Portions... Food Environment… Natural Areas… Neighborhood… Transportation…
Weight Status & Health Outcomes
Energy In Energy Out
Environmental Barriers to Environmental Supports for
and Healthy
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 9
that this framework is not intended to suggest an environmental determinis-
tic perspective. Rather than ensuring that healthy habits will occur or dictat-
ing that they will not, we suggest that environmental supports and barriers
will make such behaviors more or less likely.
The Physical Environment
Our conceptualization of the designed environment begins with cloth-
ing. We then consider the food environment and packaging, technology,
buildings, neighborhoods and urban design, and finally, the natural envi-
ronment. Within each of these categories of the environment, we explore
connections to energy expenditure and/or energy intake, the extent to which
the environment presents barriers to or supports for healthy eating and
physical activity, and a variety of possible directions for research and inter-
disciplinary collaboration.
Clothing is our closest environment, and yet relatively little research has
focused on how clothing might be related to obesity. In particular, clothing
may create barriers against, or provide supports for, physical activity.
The historical changes that have occurred in clothing are extreme. In the
1880s a typical woman’s ensemble consisted of as many as five layers and
weighed 9.8 lbs. Today, a contemporary women’s outfit is just two layers
and weighs 2.4 lbs (L. M. Lyman-Clarke, personal communication, August
10, 2006). The clothing we wear every day is less layered, is made of less
fabric, and is lighter in weight than in the past, so the caloric expenditure in
simply donning and wearing clothing for daily activities is less than it was
years ago. Researchers have documented that the weight (Duggan, 1988)
and the bulk (Teitlebaum & Goldman, 1972) of wearing additional clothing
layers is associated with increased energy expenditure. In a study of men
with an average weight of 166 lbs, an additional 10 lbs of clothing resulted
in a 6% higher energy output in watts for a 6-min stepping task (Duggan,
1988). In addition, acquiring and caring for clothing in the past generally
required the expenditure of more calories than today. Clothing was once
made primarily in the home, and the process of laundering clothing and
household fabrics was a physically demanding, all-day procedure. The
shifts to ready-to-wear clothing, Internet ordering, and the use of easy-care
10 Environment and Behavior
fabrics and appliances have reduced the energy required so that minimal
physical activity is associated with clothing ourselves today.
On the other hand, contemporary clothing may also encourage physical
activity. Free from the bulk and constraints of clothing from the past, and
with comfortable, ergonomically designed footwear, fashionable clothing is
now available that makes everyday activities such as walking and climbing
stairs easier. Modern fabrics are durable and easily laundered, making
active pursuits more practical. Moreover, clothing that has been specifically
designed for activities such as hiking, biking, walking, tennis, aerobics, and
yoga help to make these activities more comfortable and convenient.
Clothing has the capacity to provide its wearer with feedback that may
encourage physical activity. For example, sneakers designed for children
light up as the child runs or walks. Researchers have begun to examine the
effect of such feedback on physical activity. Cornell University graduate
student Lindsay Lyman Clarke designed orange capes with wrist-mounted
pinwheels for children (see Figure 2). The pinwheels spin, and the orange
fabric flaps as the child runs. Preliminary evidence from a pilot study
Figure 2
Clothing That Provides Feedback: Motivation for Physical Activity?
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 11
suggests that children in a day care were more physically active on the days
they wore the capes than on the noncape days (Lyman Clarke & Wells,
2005). Clothing can also provide physical activity feedback to the wearer
through technological sophistication. Nike and Apple have recently devel-
oped a device that feeds physical activity data to an iPod. An accelerome-
ter placed in a shoe wirelessly transmits information on distance, pace, and
calories burned to a receiver attached to an iPod nano contained in a pocket
in the sleeve or an armband. Real-time spoken feedback at specific mile-
stones can also be implemented (Apple Computer, 2006). Future research
in textile science might include the development of “smart” fabrics and
clothing ensembles that provide feedback on energy intake and energy
expenditure throughout the day, giving the wearer an on-demand assess-
ment of energy balance (Solaz et al., 2006). Further research is needed to
explore the efficacy of clothing interventions to encourage physical activity
among various ages and population groups.
As clothing becomes more technologically advanced it might also
facilitate physical activity by making us more mobile. For example, a solar
jacket marketed by Scott eVest ( allows its wearer to
travel, untethered to a physical home base, while charging cell phone, per-
sonal digital assistant, and other electronic devices. Textile and apparel
developments are under way to incorporate everything from entertainment
and communication devices to computers into clothing (Tao, 2005). Might
such technologically sophisticated clothing encourage people to walk to the
park or local coffee shop—to keep moving—rather than staying stationary
in their office chair? The influence of high-tech clothing on the expansion
of people’s geographic territorial range and physical activity is an area for
potential research collaboration among environmental psychologists and
colleagues in the fields of textiles and apparel design. Past environmental
psychology research has included the study of individuals’ territorial or
home ranges (R. B. Taylor, 1988). Research strategies such as behavior
mapping (Zeisel, 1984) and cognitive mapping (Coulton, Korbin, Chan, &
Su, 2001; Lynch, 1960) would be useful in examining the extent to which
mobility-enhancing clothing technologies do indeed increase geographical
home range and lead to higher rates of physical activity. Today, such stud-
ies can employ Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to chart movement as
well as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map the location of that
movement and pedometers or accelerometers to measure physical activity.
In collaboration with apparel designers and/or fiber scientists, environ-
mental psychology researchers might explore the efficacy of high- and low-
technology mechanisms through which clothing can provide energy balance
and weight feedback. Evidence from previous environmental psychology
12 Environment and Behavior
research examining the efficacy of feedback related to home energy con-
sumption suggests such strategies might be effective. For example, house-
holds that were given energy use feedback 4 times per week reduced their
electricity usage by 10%, compared to a nonfeedback control group
(Seligman & Darley, 1977). Studies examining the effects of energy balance
feedback would also build on recent work by nutrition researchers indicating
that frequent weight feedback enhances weight loss efforts (Levitsky, Garay,
Nausbaum, Neighbors, & DellaValle, 2006).
Clothing designs can be developed that remove barriers to physical activity
in other ways. Apparel designers might develop business attire that transitions
to active wear. For example, shirts might have zip-off sleeves or women’s
business shoes could have retractable heels. Researchers might also examine
how clothing design can be tailored to the needs of individual groups—to help
reduce the psychological and physical barriers that might confront an over-
weight or obese individual who contemplates exercise, for example.
Concepts such as feedback and territorial range fall at the intersection
of environmental psychology and textiles and/or apparel research related to
obesity, providing new avenues for research examining how clothing inno-
vations influence physical activity and dietary intake.
The Food Environment
Like the clothing environment, the food environment exists as part of the
small-scale, near environment, as manifested in portion sizes and packag-
ing. However, research related to the “food environment” also includes
broad patterns of food availability and affordability across regions. We
examine the food environment at both the small and large scale.
Portion size and packaging. As the movie Super Size Me clearly illus-
trated, portion sizes have increased dramatically in recent decades (Rolls,
2003; Young & Nestle, 2002). For instance, Coca Cola was sold in 6.5-oz
bottles in 1916, reached “king-sized” 10 or 12 ozs in the 1950s, and today
is sold in 20- or 32-oz bottles for individual consumption (French, Story, &
Jeffery, 2001). A 1954 burger from Burger King was 2.8 ozs, 202 calories,
whereas today their burger is 4.3 ozs, 310 calories (Newman, 2004). Several
experimental studies have shown that large plates, portions, and packages
influence people to eat more (Rolls, Morris, & Roe, 2002; Wansink, 2004;
Wansink, Painter, & North, 2005). Wansink (2004) reported that doubling
package size generally results in a 18% to 25% increase in consumption for
meal-related foods, such as a plate of spaghetti, and 30% to 45% for snack-
related foods. Rolls (2003) pointed out that people tend to eat in units—so
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 13
regardless of the size of the cookie or muffin, a person is likely to eat the
whole thing. Conversely, modest changes in the personal environment—such
as the size of plates and portions—can reduce “unknowing overconsump-
tion” of food (Wansink, 2004).
Neighborhoods and food. Several areas of research examine the influence
of the neighborhood food environment on healthy eating. Inequalities have
been documented regarding healthy food availability across neighborhoods
that differ in economic and racial character. Heart-healthy food availability in
neighborhoods and the mean number of heart-healthy foods at local stores
were correlated with neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) in San Diego
(Sallis, Nader, Rupp, Atkins, & Wilson, 1986). Similar patterns have been
documented with respect to fruit availability in restaurants (Edmonds,
Baranowski, Baranowski, Cullen, & Myres, 2001). Wealthier neighborhoods
also have significantly more supermarkets and gas stations with convenience
stores than poorer neighborhoods; and the poorest neighborhoods had 3 times
the number of venues for alcohol consumption than the wealthiest neighbor-
hoods. Moreover, supermarkets were more prevalent within White than Black
neighborhoods (Morland, Wing, Diez Roux, & Poole, 2002).
A few studies have examined connections between the local food envi-
ronment and dietary intake—particularly among populations at risk for
obesity. Greater availability of juice and vegetables in local restaurants was
associated with higher reported juice and vegetable consumption among
African American boys (Edmonds et al., 2001). Among Black Americans, the
presence of a supermarket in the census tract was associated with a 30%
increase in the likelihood of consuming the recommended number of daily
fruit and vegetable servings and a 38% increase in likelihood of consum-
ing the recommended amount of saturated fat (Morland et al., 2002). Other
researchers have documented that easy access to supermarket shopping is
associated with household fruit consumption (though not statistically signif-
icant; Rose & Richards, 2004). In a rare natural experiment, Wrigley, Warm,
and Margetts (2003) examined changes in diet following the construction of
a supermarket in a “retail-poor” area. Among the 45% of the sample that
switched to the new store, there was a threefold increase in walking for trans-
portation to buy food. Moreover, consumption of fruits and vegetables
increased among 60% to 75% of individuals with poor diets prior to the inter-
vention. On a more microscale, Cheadle et al. (1991) found a correlation
between individual dietary practices and the proportion of shelf space within
local stores devoted to healthy products such as low-fat milk and dark bread.
There is also potential for characteristics of the food environment to
influence physical activity, the other side of the energy balance equation.
14 Environment and Behavior
This idea is illustrated by a study conducted by Wrigley et al. (2003) doc-
umenting an increase in walking for food purchases when a neighborhood
grocery store opened. The fact that this intervention resulted in a 300%
increase in walking for food purchases illustrates that the configuration of
the food environment may influence physical activity and diet. Future stud-
ies might further examine the effect of the neighborhood food environment
on physical activity and the influence of supermarket interior design on
physical activity and the efficacy of the signage placed in the lots of some
grocery stores stating “this parking spot reserved for people who want to
increase their daily steps.”
The need to understand better how the local food environment influ-
ences dietary intake and physical activity of individuals and families pro-
vides an opportunity for environmental psychologists to collaborate with
researchers in nutrition, urban planning, interior design, and economics. In
particular, environmental psychologists might create partnerships to conduct
studies of environmental interventions—such as manipulating packaging and
portion characteristics, removing vending machines with high-calorie options,
altering store layout, or introducing a neighborhood farm stand. Such
experimental and quasi-experimental research would help us to move from
aggregate-level correlational evidence toward an understanding of causal
relationships between environment, diet, and activity.
Technological developments during the past 100 years have played a
tremendous role in easing the burden of a wide range of tasks from the home
environment to the workplace. Innovations have been aimed at making life
easier by reducing our energy expenditure. We have strategically engineered
physical activity out of our lives. For example, early research by Martha Van
Rensselaer, founder of the College of Home Economics (now The College of
Human Ecology) at Cornell University, was aimed at enabling housewives to
“save steps” while completing daily chores (Van Rensselaer, 1901). This
research culminated in the development of guidelines that specify the optimal
geometry between the stove, sink, and refrigerator. This standard is known
as the “Cornell kitchen triangle” (Child & Boynton, 1914). Today, energy-
saving technologies reduce the caloric expenditure necessary to prepare
meals, do laundry, wash dishes, bake bread, mow the lawn, change the tele-
vision channel, and plant crops. The cumulative effect of technology on phys-
ical activity is illustrated by a study of the old-order Amish, who use very
little modern technology. The Amish walk approximately 2.5 times more than
people living in modern American culture—18,425 steps per day for the
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 15
average Amish man; 14,196 steps per day, on average, for Amish women
(Bassett, Schneider, & Huntington, 2004).
It is ironic to note that more than 100 years after the publication of the
“Savings Steps” document (Van Rensselaer, 1901, see Figure 3), the tide has
turned. We now wear pedometers, striving to reach 10,000 steps per day and,
we see the advent of homes designed to increase our physical activity. A recent
book, High Fit Home: Designing Your Home for Health and Fitness,offers
examples including the “stairmaster” house designed to promote aerobic activ-
ity; a house with interior and exterior climbing walls; and a home with a ten-
nis court flowing seamlessly from the living room (MacDonald, 2005).
The kinds of changes found in the home environment are paralleled in the
workplace. Sobal (2001) pointed out that a great deal of technological devel-
opment is oriented toward the “substitution of mechanically produced energy
for human generated energy,” with the goal of more efficient, productive, and
profitable workplace activities (p. 317). Office chairs have increasingly been
designed to be comfortable and ergonomically sound, resulting in fewer calorie-
burning micromovements (e.g., shifting or repositioning oneself in the chair)
than decades ago (Hedge, 2005). We spend much of our time at the computer.
We send e-mails rather than stroll to a colleague’s office, and we roll across
the room rather than stand to retrieve a book.
To explore how physical activity might be encouraged through design and
technology within the workplace or home environment and to identify poten-
tial intervention strategies to encourage greater activity, environmental psy-
chologists might collaborate with interior designers, industrial designers,
engineers, and architects. It is not realistic that we will undo our connection
to technology and return to horse-and-buggy, typewriters, manual laundry,
and similar practices of the past; however, there may be lessons in the past
and opportunities to increase human energy expenditure by returning to some
activities that are appropriate to integrate into a modern lifestyle. What might
motivate people to use the “solar dryer” (clothesline) for example?
Environmental psychology has a long history of research examining how
to motivate people to behave in environmentally responsible ways (e.g., Cook
& Berrenberg, 1981; De Young, 1996) including participation in recycling
(De Young, 1986), water conservation (Corral-Verdugo, Frias-Armentia,
Perez-Urias, Orduna-Cabrera, & Espinoza-Gallego, 2002), and reduction
of household chemical use (Werner & Adams, 2001). This work can now pro-
vide direction for research and intervention strategies aimed at encouraging
individuals to expend their own physical effort rather than using devices pow-
ered by electricity or gasoline (e.g., use the clothesline rather than the dryer,
walk rather than drive to the corner store). For example, prior research
16 Environment and Behavior
Figure 3
“Saving Steps: Cornell Reading Course for
Farmers’ Wives”(Van Rensselaer, 1901)
suggests that environmentally responsible behaviors (ERBs) may be more
likely if people’s sense of intrinsic motivation or satisfaction is engaged (De
Young, 1996, 2000; Kaplan, 2000; Parnell & Larsen, 2005) rather than pre-
senting ERBs as onerous and/or altruistic acts. This approach may fit well
with encouraging the use of low-tech, human-powered options. Initial stud-
ies might survey people who engage in such activities to assess their motives.
Subsequent research, in collaboration with transportation planners or interior
designers, for example, could examine the efficacy of intervention strategies
employing different types of motivational tactics or messages.
Through innovative design interventions and research, physical activity
also might be incorporated into tasks that are typically sedentary. An inter-
esting analogy is the “Dance, Dance, Revolution” video game that trans-
forms stationary video game play into a fun, intense workout. One intriguing
opportunity for research is offered by currently available computer technol-
ogy that projects a laser image of a keyboard onto a flat surface such as a
table or floor. The image can be projected quite large, potentially allowing
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 17
individuals with upper body disabilities or people seeking alternatives to
sedentary typing, the option of “step typing”—similar to the stepping and
dancing to play the piano keyboard in the movie Big. Although “step typing”
may not be an appealing or practical alternative for the average computer
user, it may be an active, engaging way for children to learn the alphabet and
the keyboard layout. The efficacy of this idea could be studied in collabora-
tion with ergonomists and/or early childhood researchers.
Building Design
“We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.
Perhaps never before in history has Winston Churchill’s observation been
so literally true. During the past 100 years, building construction practices
along with a wide range of technological developments may have con-
tributed to the obesity epidemic by enabling us to expend less energy. As
Sobal (2001) pointed out, the evolution of building materials such as insu-
lation and thermal windows has more completely separated humans from
the natural elements—protecting us from cold and heat. Relatively sophis-
ticated heating devices and technologically controlled indoor climates have
reduced the need for people to generate body heat to stay warm during cold
weather (Sobal, 2001, p. 316). Moreover, the physical configuration of
buildings reflects a bias toward human energy conservation—and against
physical activity. In modern buildings, stairways are typically unattractive
and inaccessible, whereas elevators and escalators are saliently located and
inviting. Seldom do we find a contemporary building with a wide, stately,
inviting stairway gracefully winding from one floor to another. The place-
ment of stairs in obscure locations surely reduces their use. And yet,
increasing use of stairs has the potential to profoundly affect public health.
Paffenbarger, Hyde, Wing, and Hsieh (1986) studied 11,000 Harvard
University alumni and found that those who climbed at least 20 floors per
week had 20% lower risk of stroke or death from all causes, after control-
ling for a large number of demographic and other risk factors. It has been
estimated that an additional 2 mins of stair climbing per day would trans-
late to a weight reduction of more than 1.2 lbs per year, effectively elimi-
nating the 1 lb typically gained by each adult in the United States each year
(Zimring, Joseph, Nicoll, & Tsepas, 2005).
A few studies have begun to examine the effect of stairway location and
stairway design on use and physical activity levels. For example, research is
now being launched to examine how “skip-stop” elevators2—that stop every
fourth floor—might influence physical activity levels of office building
18 Environment and Behavior
occupants (Zimring, Kohl, Fuller, & Dogan, 2006). Studies conducted at the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) documented that color, painting, and
music can increase stair usage (Kerr, Yore, Ham, & Dietz, 2004). Moreover,
several studies have documented the efficacy of motivational signs, banners,
and point-of-decision prompts to encourage stair use (Kerr, Eves, Carroll,
2000, 2001; Webb & Eves, 2005). For example, Anderson, Frankowiak,
Snyder, Bartlett, and Fontaine (1998) observed more than 17,000 shoppers in
a mall and found that health and weight-control signs placed beside escala-
tors with adjacent stairs were effective in increasing stair use rates.
Relatively little is known about how specific stairway design features
might encourage stair use. Researchers have only begun to examine this
question (Nicoll, Zimring, & Peponis, 2006). For example, further research
is needed to determine how stairway width, steepness, or other design char-
acteristics influence stairway usage. Such studies might focus on specific
user groups. What stairway characteristics are most likely to promote stair
use among young children, among adolescents, and among elders, for
example? If possible, such inquiries might include longitudinal data and
adopt a life course perspective (Gotlib & Wheaton, 1997; Wethington,
2005). For example, if design elements can encourage the development of
healthy habits such as using the stairs in early childhood, to what extent do
the habits have “staying power” as children grow and move on to other
physical settings?
In addition to building design and stairway design, little is known about
the effects of site design on physical activity (Zimring et al., 2005). On this
larger scale, corporations such as telecom giant Sprint are now beginning to
create corporate campuses with the goal of promoting physical activity
(Kay, 2004; Sparling, 2005). Such campus designs include intentionally
significant distances between the parking areas and offices, longer treks
between buildings, and greater distances to centralized conference and
cafeteria facilities, as well as recreational walking trails. Follow-up research
is necessary to examine the efficacy of such design efforts. Preliminary
research suggests that the amount of utilitarian walking to destinations was
increased due to the strategy of separating locales; however, recreational
walking was not greater (Yao, 2005).
Neighborhoods and Urban Design
The physical layout of the residential environment has evolved toward a
pattern of low-density sprawl, separation of land uses due to zoning, and
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 19
settings designed for and dominated by the automobile. The irony is that
although much of urban planning policy is rooted in a concern for public
health (Frank, Engelke, & Schmid, 2003), the ultimate result has contributed
to major contemporary health problems—inactivity and obesity. Neighbor-
hood design and urban or regional design have been posited to influence
physical activity, diet, obesity (Ewing et al., 2003; Lopez, 2004), and health
(Ewing et al., 2003). Because these connections have received more research
attention than other environment—obesity linkages and are also addressed by
articles in this special issue (Brown, Werner, Amburgey & Szalay, 2007 [this
issue]; Joseph & Zimring, 2007 [this issue]), we discuss the neighborhood
and urban planning theme relatively briefly. For reviews, see Alfonzo (2005),
Humpel et al. (2002), and Saelens et al. (2003).
One promising avenue for further collaborations between environmental
psychologists and urban planners involves the use of simulation studies
(Marans & Stokols, 1993). Simulations using still photographs, computer
animations, or virtual reality laboratories would allow researchers to more
clearly examine individual neighborhood or streetscape variables such
as the presence and character of benches, views, trees, and storefronts. By
helping to isolate the role of individual environmental features, this kind of
research would help to address the challenge of “spatial covariance”—the
fact that various environmental features (such as mixed use, gridded street
networks, etc.) tend to co-occur (analogous to multicollinearity in statis-
tics). Simulation studies offer a valuable complement to “real-world” stud-
ies that are stronger in external validity.
The Natural Environment
From William Penn’s plan for Philadelphia to the Olmsted-Vaux design for
Central Park, promoting public health has been a guiding tenet of landscape
design. It is somewhat surprising to note that, until recently, this tenet has been
largely overlooked in the discussion of strategies for combating obesity.
However, studies have begun to examine linkages between the natural envi-
ronment and obesity, overweight, and physical activity. The evidence suggests
that nature may provide an important support for physical activity. For
example, a study conducted in Japan among senior citizens found that having
space for taking a stroll and the presence of parks and tree-lined streets near
the residence were significant predictors of survival in a follow-up 5 years
later (Takano, Nakamura, & Watanabe, 2002). Although this study did not
include an examination of mediating variables that would clearly explain the
20 Environment and Behavior
mechanisms connecting these two residential characteristics to longevity, use
of the space and increased physical activity levels are likely candidates.
Another study of older adults documents that longer visits to a park were asso-
ciated with lower blood pressure than shorter visits (Mowen, 2003).
The notion that natural areas encourage physical activity is supported by
evidence that people with easy access to natural areas are more likely to use
the spaces (Coley, Kuo, & Sullivan, 1997; Giles-Corti et al., 2005; Troped
et al., 2001). In a study of nearly 7,000 adults living in European cities, res-
idents of areas with the highest levels of greenery were 3 times as likely to
be physically active and 40% less likely to be overweight or obese, than
those living in the least green setting (Ellaway, Macintyre, & Bonnefoy,
2005). Similarly Giles-Corti et al. (2005) found that people who use public
open spaces are 3 times more likely to achieve recommended levels of
physical activity than those who do not use the spaces.
Gaining a clearer understanding of the role of parks, greenways, and open
spaces in physical activity levels and obesity rates is particularly critical to
our efforts to address these issues among vulnerable populations such as
people living in poverty, women, and ethnic minorities. Within cities, low-
income families typically have less access to natural areas. For example, in
New York City, poor families live in neighborhoods with less than one half
the park space (17 square yards/child) as nonpoor families (40 square yards/
child; Sherman, 1994). A similar association has been documented in rural
New York State, where children from low-income families were found to
have less access to nearby nature than children from higher SES families
(Wells & Evans, 2003); and a similar pattern was found among professional
versus manual laborers in the United Kingdom (Townsend, 1979). Further
research is needed to clearly identify specific park and natural environment
features that will encourage people to visit and use natural areas and to
engage in physical activity (Bedimo-Rung, Mowen, & Cohen, 2005), with
particular attention to tailoring environments to engage diverse vulnerable
groups. Research suggests that providing individuals with greater access to
green space may help to increase activity levels but does not guarantee
greater activity. Residents in low SES areas of Perth, Australia, had good
access to recreation facilities, in some cases better access than high SES res-
idents, and yet, were less likely to use them than were high SES residents
(Giles-Corti & Donovan, 2002). Consequently, on a more microscale, further
research is needed on the specific design elements of parks and streetscapes
that will make the outdoor spaces more likely to meet the needs and prefer-
ences of specific subpopulations.
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 21
Further research might examine how the configuration of green space
influences use and physical activity. It has been suggested that green infra-
structure—including parks, trails, and greenways—needs to provide connec-
tivity between destinations, enabling people to integrate physical activity
more easily into daily routines (Killingsworth, James, & Morris, 2003). One
element in such an infrastructure is multiuse recreational trails including rail-
to-trail conversions and other greenways. As of April 2005, rail-to-trail con-
versions totaled more than 12,000 miles (Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 2005).
However, given that these routes were originally designed for trains, envi-
ronmental psychologists could help identify the features most likely to
encourage active use by cyclists and pedestrians.
Similarly, environment-behavior researchers might collaborate with
landscape architects to test the efficacy of creative landscape features to
help draw people to the outdoors. Design might help to make sedentary
activities like chess active (Figure 4). Other strategies to draw people out-
doors and promote activity include interactive gardens and sculptures, and
“play equipment” suitable for people of various ages. The design of these
gardens and structures might be informed by interdisciplinary research
pairing environmental psychologists with landscape architects, industrial
designers, and developmental psychologists to test the appeal and efficacy
of various design options.
In addition, research concerning the design of parks and natural areas
to encourage children and adults alike to get outdoors and spend time in
nature is a clear opportunity to apply theory related to environmental pref-
erence (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1982; Kaplan, Kaplan, & Ryan, 1998). Kaplan
and Kaplan (1982) proposed that people tend to prefer environments that
provide an opportunity for involvement through mystery and the chance to
“make sense” through legibility. The application of this theory to the design
of parks, greenways, and other natural areas could be further tested, partic-
ularly with members of a vulnerable “target group.” This would be an apt
response to the suggestion from urban planners that aesthetic improvements
will increase park visitation and pedestrian activity (Addy et al., 2004;
Handy, Boarnet, Ewing, & Killingsworth, 2002; Pikora, Giles-Corti, Bull,
Jamrozik, & Donovan, 2003).
Across a wide range of environments, numerous interdisciplinary
research opportunities exist for environment-behavior researchers to exam-
ine barriers or supports for healthy eating and physical activity. In addition
to topics for future research directions, it is also important to consider con-
ceptual and methodological issues relevant to such undertakings.
22 Environment and Behavior
Conceptual and Methodological Considerations
Finally, we turn briefly to some conceptual and methodological considera-
tions that may enhance the research endeavors of environment-behavior schol-
ars seeking to partner with those in other disciplines to examine environmental
influences on obesity. We address three specific issues: the importance of lon-
gitudinal research, the value of examining mediating mechanisms, and the rel-
evance of incorporating moderators in research design.
Longitudinal Research
An important theme throughout the environment—obesity research is
the need to establish causality. Whether we are interested in the relation
between clothing design and physical activity or vegetable availability and
diet, establishing causal relationships is an important goal because it pro-
vides a foundation for more confident policy and practice recommenda-
tions. However, an overwhelming majority of studies are cross-sectional in
Figure 4
Large-Scale Chess: The Transformation of Sedentary Indoor
Activities into Active, Outdoor Activities
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 23
nature. Cross-sectional studies are a practical, valuable, and appropriate start-
ing point. They suggest relations among correlates or covariates and often
lead to causal hypotheses (Bauman, Sallis, Dzewaltowski, & Owen, 2002).
Ultimately, however, longitudinal studies are necessary to establish causality.
Several authors have recognized the dearth of longitudinal or pretest–posttest
intervention studies (particularly with respect to the built environment and
physical activity) and have called for more work in this direction (Handy
et al., 2002; A. C. King, Bauman, & Abrams, 2002; Sallis, Bauman, & Pratt,
1998). Very few studies have employed longitudinal designs to examine
changes in either physical activity (e.g., Krizek, 2000) or diet (e.g., Wrigley
et al., 2003). Unlike cross-sectional research, longitudinal or multiwave stud-
ies allow for within-subjects comparisons whereby individuals serve as their
own controls. Because the study sample is the same throughout the investi-
gation, threats to internal validity due to between-groups differences (e.g., in
ethnicity, SES, or propensity to be physical active or eat healthfully) are
greatly reduced.
One opportunity for longitudinal research is provided by “natural exper-
iments” whereby some environmental or policy change allows for data
collection prior to and following a change. Opportunities for natural exper-
iment research related to physical activity and diet include the construction
(or demolition) of a grocery store, the opening of a vegetable stand or farm-
ers’ market, a new policy making the high school gym available to com-
munity members in the evening, a community tree-planting campaign, the
launching of a community gardening program, the widening (or narrowing)
of a street, the incorporation of “traffic-calming” measures such as cross-
walks and speed bumps, and the relocation of individuals or families from
one neighborhood to another. These are just a few examples of natural
experiment opportunities to examine the causal effects of an environmental
intervention. Longitudinal studies are time intensive and demanding;
however, the clarity they can provide regarding causality makes them a
worthy goal.
Mediating Mechanisms
A mediator explains how or why an independent variable affects a depen-
dent variable, as shown in Figure 5. Mediators provide insight regarding the
mechanism or process underlying a relationship between variables (Baron &
Kenny, 1986). For example, physical characteristics of a neighborhood may
lead to neighborhood perceptions such as sense of community, which in turn
influence physical activity participation (e.g., walking). Similarly, food envi-
ronment characteristics may influence food-purchasing attitudes and behaviors
24 Environment and Behavior
that in turn affect diet. Thus, mediators operate as dependent variables (affected
by neighborhood design, for example) and independent variables (influencing
physical activity, for example).
One potential mediator familiar to environment-behavior research is
attention restoration (Kaplan, 1995). For example, the natural characteris-
tics of a neighborhood or street such as trees and vegetation are likely to be
associated with residents who are more cognitively restored and have
greater cognitive clarity, even if primarily due to a natural view from their
windows (Tennessen & Cimprich, 1995). With enhanced attentional capac-
ity, people may be more likely to venture out for a walk. In this case, cog-
nitive restoration would mediate (explain) the relationship between nearby
nature and physical activity.
By providing insight regarding the pathway or mechanism underlying
relations among variables, mediating variables are valuable to theory and
practice. From a theoretical standpoint, it is critical to understand how or
why variables are related. This allows for a clearer conceptualization of the
behavior being studied. From a practical standpoint, the identification of
mediators provides greater insight regarding the potential leverage points
(Booth et al., 2001) for intervention or policy change. Achieving a greater
understanding of the pathways and leverage points through which the envi-
ronment might influence physical activity and diet will bring us one step
closer to an active, healthy population (Stokols, 1996).
Another important direction for research among environmental psycho-
logists interested in issues related to obesity is to examine more fully the
Figure 5
Mediators Address “How” or “Why” Questions by Elucidating the
Process or Mechanism Through Which an Independent Variable
Affects a Dependent Variable
Variable e.g.,
food environment…
neighborhoods, etc.
Why? How?
e.g., territorial
range, nutritional
sense of community
e.g., physical activity +
dietary intake
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 25
circumstances under which relationships exist between the environment and
physical activity or dietary habits. Moderators (or “effect modifiers”) affect the
relationship between an independent variable (e.g., proximity to a farmers’
market) and a dependent variable (e.g., vegetable consumption). Moderators
address questions such as “for whom,” “when,” or “under what circum-
stances” (Baron & Kenny, 1986), as illustrated in Figure 6. A study examining
changes in fruit and vegetable consumption before and after the construction
of a new grocery store illustrates the notion of a moderator. Wrigley et al.
(2003) found that although on an aggregate level there was no significant
increase in daily fruit and vegetable consumption among people living near
the new store, among people with the poorest diet, there was a 60% increase—
from 1.31 to 1.75 servings for fruits and vegetables per day. In this example,
the moderator answers the question “for whom” is there an effect.
More generally, moderators address “it depends” types of relations; the
effect of A on B depends on the level or category of a third variable, the
moderator. The association between the independent variable and the depen-
dent variable may depend on factors such as characteristics of people in the
sample, where the sites are located, or when the data are collected. Moderators
“interact” with an independent variable—that is, an interaction effect.
With respect to environment—physical activity and environment—diet
research, there is a need to know what kinds of design or environmental
intervention strategies are effective for whom, under what conditions. For
example, might proximity to a park or natural area only encourage physical
activity among people of a certain age, ethnicity, or marital status? Perhaps
proximity to a park influences park use only among children of a certain
Figure 6
Moderators Are Involved When the Nature or the Direction of the
Relation Between an Independent Variable and a Dependent Variable
“Depends” on a Third Variable (the Moderator)
For whom? When?
Under what circumstances?
e.g., age, gender, weather /
season, health habits +
history, etc.
e.g., clothing…
food environment…
neighborhoods, etc.
Dependent Variable
e.g., physical activity +
dietary intake
26 Environment and Behavior
age (who are old enough that they are allowed to cross the intervening
streets on their own). Might the effects of portion size or plate size vary
according to age or SES? Affecting change and improving population
health is unlikely to have a “one-size-fits-all” solution. For this reason, it is
critical to strive toward a more nuanced understanding of the efficacy of
environmental variables. Important moderator variables include demo-
graphic characteristics (e.g., age, ethnicity, marital status, employment
status), health history (e.g., history of major illness) and family context.
One of the particular merits of incorporating moderators into one’s
research design is the opportunity to consider how the effect of environmen-
tal features on the physical activity or diet might differ for various at-risk
members of our society. We know that the occurrence of obesity, as well as
rates of physical activity and poor diet, is not randomly distributed through-
out the population (W. C. Taylor, Poston, Jones, & Kraft, 2006). The pre-
valence of obesity is higher in non-Hispanic Black women than it is in
non-Hispanic White women, for example (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden, &
Johnson, 2002). Rising rates of obesity or overweight among children is par-
ticularly a concern (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll, & Johnson, 2002). Moreover,
people of lower SES and low education are more vulnerable to overweight
and obesity (Drewnowski & Specter, 2004). Researchers might examine how
factors such as race, age, SES, or gender moderate the relations between the
streetscape characteristics and walking or grocery store layout and dietary
intake. Streetscape features are unlikely to influence the activity of a teenage
male the same way they affect those of an elderly woman, for instance.
Conceptualizing and testing for moderator effects can contribute to our
understanding of environmental influences on the healthy habits of vulnera-
ble populations and provide data to allow for appropriate tailoring of inter-
ventions—such as sidewalk modifications, grocery store construction, or
provision of nutritional information—to best match a given target audience,
setting, or circumstance.
This article presents a variety of potential connections between the envi-
ronment and physical activity or diet. These linkages offer vast opportuni-
ties for environmental psychology research. Environmental psychologists
might collaborate with researchers in fields such as apparel design, engi-
neering, industrial design, nutrition, interior design, architecture, urban
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 27
planning, horticulture, and landscape design. Researchers in the area of
environment-behavior studies are well poised to help identify barriers and
supports related to healthy diet and physical activity. Through creative,
interdisciplinary collaboration and thoughtful research design, the field of
environmental psychology can make substantial contributions toward a
healthier population.
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Nancy M. Wells is an assistant professor in the Department of Design and Environmental
Analysis at Cornell University. She is an environmental psychologist interested in the impact
of the built and natural environment on human well-being through the life course. Her work
focuses on housing quality and mental health, the impact of nearby nature on health and well-
being, and the relationship between neighborhood design and physical activity.
Susan P. Ashdown is a professor in the Department of Textiles and Apparel and the Helen G.
Canoyer Professor of Human Ecology at Cornell University. Her research is in functional apparel
design, anthropometrics for design, the sizing and fit of apparel, the perception of body size and
fit of clothing, and the development and use of the 3-D body scanner in the apparel industry.
Elizabeth H. S. Davies is an undergraduate in the Department of Policy Analysis and
Management at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the impact of environmental design
on mental health and physical activity. After graduation, she hopes to work in a field that incor-
porates environmental psychology, criminology, social policy, and community outreach.
F. D. Cowett is a doctoral student in the Horticulture Department at Cornell University where
he also received an MLA in landscape architecture. His research interests include visual pref-
erence for street tree characteristics and the role that the urban forest can play in promoting
healthy, walkable communities.
Yizhao Yang is an assistant professor in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and
Management at the University of Oregon. Her research focuses on social and environmental
aspects of physical planning, particularly issues related to good urban form pertaining to more
healthy, affordable, and sustainable environments.
Wells et al. / Environment, Design, and Obesity 33
... Eating contexts and environmental cues-including those elicited in virtual environments-influence food choices and preferences (e.g., Ammann et al., 2020;Cardello et al., 2000;Cherulnik, 1991;Jaeger & Rose, 2008;King et al., 2004;Pennanen et al., 2020). Their role in developing overweight and obesity has been acknowledged (Wells et al., 2007). Still, no studies have investigated if exposing people to environmental cues to winter facilitates energy-dense (vs. ...
In the recent decade, marketing literature has acknowledged the advantages of applying an evolutionary lens to understand consumer behavior in different domains. Food choice context is one such domain, having implications for societal well-being, especially for public health and addressing environmental issues. In this thesis, I investigate how mechanisms that have emerged as adaptations to food scarcity—frequent throughout human history—affect modern consumers’ food preferences, potentially leading to maladaptive outcomes. In Paper I, we highlight that selection pressures adjusted humans to forage in ancestral, hostile environments when they were wandering between periods of food scarcity and food sufficiency. Consequently, consumers often fail to choose foods appropriate to their current needs in contemporary retail contexts. Rather than attempting to override these hardwired and evolutionarily outdated food preferences, we recommend policymakers leverage them in such a way that facilitates healthier food choices. A series of studies reported in Paper II show that exposing people to climate changeinduced food scarcity distant in time and space shifts their current food preferences. Specifically, people exposed to such video content exhibit a stronger preference toward energy-dense (vs. low-calorie) foods than their peers exposed to a control video. In Paper III, we aimed to account for potential confounds stemming from the control video used in studies reported in Paper II. Additionally, we strived to conceptually replicate these earlier findings by exposing participants to subtle cues to food scarcity—a winter forest walk. Although not all studies yielded significant results at conventional levels, this empirical package—when taken together—corroborated the earlier findings. Despite that studies described in Papers II–III provided a shred of empirical evidence showing a potency of food scarcity cues in increasing preferences toward energy-dense (vs. low-calorie) products, it was still unclear what drove such a shift in food liking. Thus, in Paper IV, we have developed and psychometrically validated the Anticipated Food Scarcity Scale (AFSS), measuring the degree to which people perceive food resources as becoming less available in the future. Aside from being a candidate mechanism partially explaining findings reported in Papers II–III, anticipated food scarcity (AFS) is also related to some aspects of prosociality. Studies presented in this thesis suggest that when environmental cues to food scarcity are present, people show a stronger preference toward energy-dense (vs. low-calorie) foods than their peers unexposed to such cues. Policymakers should consider these results when designing climate change and other similar campaigns, as such communication often depicts food scarcity. Additional research may explore the possibility that exposure to food scarcity cues affects food choices. Considering that we found AFS correlated with certain prosocial attitudes, it is a new psychological construct that warrants future investigation through multidisciplinary research.
... In other words, culture come to shape the way people experience their environment. There is a rich body of research in visual perception, spatial cognition, attention and spatial navigation strategies, which seem to be potentially modulated by urban characteristics (e.g., Robinson & Pallasmaa, 2015;Zeisel et al., 2003;Wells et al., 2007;Kaplan et al., 1998;Kaplan & Kaplan, 1983;Hollander & Foster, 2016;Foo et al., 2005). As a meaning-making framework, culture both constrains and enables perception and reasoning (Nisbett & Norenzayan, 2002). ...
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A crucial point for urban design is the acknowledgement that urban material structures are not only constituting a set of cognitive-cultural affordances that shapes people’s behavior and experiential world, but likewise that the design process itself is an expression of cultural conceptualizations possibly evoked by ongoing cultural practices and perceptions, thus forming a dynamic loop. In this paper, we outline a framework for the study of material, cultural and social mechanisms interacting with human cognition, behavior and emotions. We attempt a conceptual model that integrates dynamic interactions between cognitive-cultural affordances and our conceptualization of the environment and provides a few illustrative case examples. The model proposes a set of dynamic relations between cognitive and cultural processes at shorter time scales modifying conceptualizations and environmental affordances on longer timescales, while these – in turn – come to guide and constrain processes at the shorter timescales. The model has important implications for our understanding of the role of environmental design, especially urban design, as bridging between aspects of human situated experience, behavior, social and cultural norms and material culture.
... A pioneering environmental perception study was the Image of the city study by Kevin Lynch (1991 a, c). The study was initiated with an interest in a possible connection between psychology and the urban 22 Environment refers to the space outside of the person (Wells et al, 2007) environment. (Lynch, 1985). ...
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ABSTRACT Space is not just a collection of buildings and infrastructure. According to Manuel Castells (1984) space is the material dimension of a society. Space will express the power relationship within a society. Physical space is a product of the social and gender relations in a society. Henry Lefebvre (1991) proposes that space and society are in a continuous process of mutual shaping evolution. Popular parlance assigns the public realm of space for men and the private realm for women. Women’s domestic responsibilities and position in the hierarchical order of the society inhibit them from a full fledged participation in public life and waged employment. Physical space of the public realm is produced to maintain their position in the private domestic realm. Such confinement of women to the private realm is reinforced by their “passive exclusion” (Sen 2000) from the public space by not addressing women’s special needs in the public space (Hayden 1985; Wilson 1991; Massey 1983). The present study attempts to explore how far the physical space contributes to the differences if any in the participation of men and women in the urban public space and to observe how the physical public space in Indian Cities contribute to such differences. Hyderabad was selected as the area of study as it represents an Indian metropolis with its multi lingual and multi cultural society. An “ethnographic” methodology (Atkinson& Hammersley, 1994) of “observation”, collection of “unstructured data”, finding “patterns” and “regularities”, and arriving at conclusions & interpretations is followed in this research. Street scenes in Hyderabad were videotaped using a handheld camera and the tapes were “content analysed”. A comprehensive coding sheet based on “the environmental audit tools” used in “active living research” ( was developed for content analysis. The coded data was cross tabulated for associations between “physical space characteristics” and “participation by women and men”. Logistic Regression Analysis (LRA) was conducted and statistically significant associations were identified. The streets were observed to have a wide range of isolated, social and income generating activities. It was observed that women participation is more in certain landuses and “backgrounds”. It was also observed that participation is varying with the presence of various elements such as street furniture, trees etc. in the urban public realm. The presence of street vendors was observed to be positively associated with the social activities in the public spaces. The study results point out that women are not equal participants in the urban public space. Their presence- though comparatively lower than men’s presence- is observed in areas associated with women’s role as “providers” and “caregivers” in the family and also in areas which are perceived to be “safe and secure”. One proposes that provision of physical space catering to women’s needs and women’s work as well as spaces that seem apt for women to be present; may promote women participation in urban spaces. The research underlines the importance of “gender mainstreaming” of policies for spatial planning; whereby the concerns of women as well as men will be addressed. Such policies evolved at local levels may ensure the utilisation of full potential of urban public life for the welfare of the citizens.
... Over the last several years a new social model of health has evolved, described by Duhl and Sanchez (1999) "as an outcome of the effects of socioeconomic status, culture, environmental conditions, housing, employment and community influences" (1999, p.7). In this new paradigm, resources provided via civil infrastructure -in particular parks and other public green spaces -play a crucial role in promoting and sustaining public health (Bedimo-Rung et al., 2005;Wells et al., 2007;Coutts, 2008). After all, it does little to educate individuals on the importance of exercise if their community is designed and built in such a way that such exercise is expensive, unenjoyable, or unsafe. ...
Recent research has underscored the potential for public green spaces to influence individual and societal health outcomes, but empirical measurements of such influences have yielded mixed results to date, with particular disagreement surrounding how access to parks ought to be defined while controlling for alternate explanations. In this paper, we apply a comprehensive measure of park accessibility drawn from random utility choice theory, which avoids arbitrary assertions of proximity while incorporating potentially numerous amenities and attributes of both the parks and the population. We apply this utility-based accessibility measure to correlate Census tract-level obesity and physical activity rate estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 500 Cities project with tract-level American Community Survey socioeconomic data in New York City, paired with geographic open space data from New York City. Controlling for the socioeconomic variables and spatially correlated error terms, we show a positive and significant relationship between park access and physical activity rates. The data also suggest a negative relationship between park access and obesity rates, beyond what is expected through physical activity and socioeconomics. In doing so, this research contributes a more comprehensive modeling approach for measuring the impact of park access on health, and may improve our understanding of the role parks and access to them can serve in furthering public health objectives.
Winter cues signal a scarcity of food. Birds and mammals respond to such environmental cues by consuming more energy. They convert this surplus into body fat that serves as a buffer against impending food shortages. Similarly, humans exhibit higher obesity rates among food-insecure populations. However, to date, it has been unclear whether winter cues qualitatively affect consumers’ food preferences. Results from five studies (N = 865), with one of them preregistered, show that watching videos depicting winter cues elicits thoughts about energy-dense foods and survival. Such cues elicit higher preferences for energy-dense than low-calorie foods, as verified by meta-analytic evidence, with this effect likely differing between women and men. Taken together, our results support an evolutionary account postulating that humans have developed sex-specific responses to perceivable cues of food scarcity. As a result, winter cues induce people to favor products they deem higher in calories. Given the importance of limiting energy-dense food consumption for addressing environmental and public health issues, policymakers and marketers should be aware of this phenomenon when designing public communication campaigns.
This volume contains select papers presented during the Functional Textiles and Clothing Conference 2020 held at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. The volume covers recent developments, challenges and opportunities in the field of functional and protective clothing; functional printing and finishing; sustainable production and supply chain; and testing and characterisation. This volume will be of interest to researchers, professional engineers, entrepreneurs, and market stakeholders interested in functional textiles and clothing.
Large numbers of people are expending less energy than they consume and consequently, the increasing rates of obesity reflect this lack of energy balance. However, it is difficult to maintain an energy balance in the modern environment where every day, voluntary physical activity is not a given. Purposeful exercise is widely adopted as a method to increase energy expenditure, however, barriers to exercise are experienced by many. Nevertheless, it has been evidenced that clothing can increase metabolic energy consumption. Resistance clothing has been adopted by athletes for training and conditioning purposes to extend the energetic efforts required to perform physical activities during training. Such clothing designs appear worthwhile exploring for the design of everyday clothing and/or exercise clothing, to reclaim the energy expenditures that were once a given through physically active lives. However, no research has been found to explore the potential interest of such clothing for women. This questionnaire study investigated women’s approach to exercise and diet and explored the potential interest of functional clothing to increase metabolic consumption. A total of 502 women completed the questionnaire. The sample included non-exercisers, exercisers, underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese women. The results determined a positive level of interest in functional clothing to optimise metabolic consumption across all BMI classifications. Differences were presented regarding when women would prefer to wear the clothing and what would motivate them to wear it.
This research aims to use nanotechnology to develop ecofriendly and durable multifunctional products, capable of providing protection of textiles from harmful UV radiations, bacterial infection and mosquitoes. Natural essential oils have various useful properties; however, they are difficult to apply directly onto a textile substrate due to their volatile nature. In this work, peppermint essential oil along with a combination of suitable surfactants has been used to develop stable and optimized oil in water nanoemulsion. The nanoemulsion has been prepared using high-speed homogenization technique and has been applied onto cellulosic fabric. The particle size of the nanoemulsion has been tested with the help of Malvern Mastersizer 2000 according to which a stable nanoemulsion has been obtained. The finishing has been done by application of nanoemulsion through layer by layer technique, which is known to improve the adhesion of finishing on fabric. The use of nanoemulsion has led to very good multifunctional property of fabric through LBL application technique, in terms of antimicrobial property (99 %), mosquito repellency (100 %) as well as moderate UV protection property (UPF 7.28). The fabric has been found to possess its multifunctional properties till 20 washes.
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Cigarette smoking has various direct and indirect concerns regarding the health of active and passive smokers. Cigarette smoke consists of many complex aerosols, including metals like arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), lead (Pb), iron (Fe), mercury (Hg), and so on. Cigarette filters which are designed to separate toxic aerosols from the smoke to enter into human lungs are less looked after once the smoking is over, and often they are thrown precariously near water bodies. These filters buds when exposed to environment can release absorbed chemicals in soil and water, eventually resulting in biomagnification of toxic chemicals in plant or animal. Electrospun polymer nanofibers, like polyacrylonitrile (PAN), can be a useful alternative to filter materials in commercial cigarette. This paper suggests modification of traditional cigarette filters with PAN nanofibers which can be carbonized to prepare conductive substrate. Electrospun nanofibers when rolled like regular cigarette filters exhibited similar pressure drop with near identical molar flux of inhaled gas. However, the weight gain of regular cigarette filter after smoking was mere 25 %, whereas electrospun PAN nanofiber filter gained 115 % in weight after smoking. The same filter membrane, after smoking, was carbonized to make carbon nanofibers (CNF), which showed enhanced capacitance behavior in cyclic voltammetry study in KOH medium.
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In this article, we attempt to distinguish between the properties of moderator and mediator variables at a number of levels. First, we seek to make theorists and researchers aware of the importance of not using the terms moderator and mediator interchangeably by carefully elaborating, both conceptually and strategically, the many ways in which moderators and mediators differ. We then go beyond this largely pedagogical function and delineate the conceptual and strategic implications of making use of such distinctions with regard to a wide range of phenomena, including control and stress, attitudes, and personality traits. We also provide a specific compendium of analytic procedures appropriate for making the most effective use of the moderator and mediator distinction, both separately and in terms of a broader causal system that includes both moderators and mediators. (46 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This article contends that while striving to promote environmentally responsible behavior, we have focused attention too narrowly on just two classes of motives. There is a need to expand the range of motives available to practitioners and to provide a framework within which motives can be evaluated for both their immediate and long-term effectiveness. The article then examines a strategy for promoting environmentally responsible behavior that has significant potential. This strategy is based on a particular form of motivation called intrinsic satisfaction. Nine studies are reviewed that have outlined the structure of intrinsic satisfaction. A key theme discussed is the human inclination for competence. This fundamental human concern is shown to have both a general form and a resource-specific version.
Research in transportation, urban design, and planning has examined associations between physical environment variables and individuals' walking and cycling for transport. Constructs, methods, and findings from these fields can be applied by physical activity and health researchers to improve understanding of environmental influences on physical activity. In this review, neighborhood environment characteristics proposed to be relevant to walking/cycling for transport are defined, including population density, connectivity, and land use mix. Neighborhood comparison and correlational studies with nonmotorized transport outcomes are considered, with evidence suggesting that residents from communities with higher density, greater connectivity, and more land use mix report higher rates of walking/cycling for utilitarian purposes than low-density, poorly connected, and single land use neighborhoods. Environmental variables appear to add to variance accounted for beyond sociodemographic predictors of walking/cycling for transport. Implications of the transportation literature for physical activity and related research are outlined. Future research directions are detailed for physical activity research to further examine the impact of neighborhood and other physical environment factors on physical activity and the potential interactive effects of psychosocial and environmental variables. The transportation, urban design, and planning literatures provide a valuable starting point for multidisciplinary research on environmental contributions to physical activity levels in the population.
This volume is intended to provide an overview and scholarly analysis of state-of-the-art developments within the field of environmental simulation research. Environmental simulation involves the presentation of scale­ model previews, full-scale mock-ups, and computer images of planned environments and activities taking place within them to designers and to prospective users of those settings. Environmental simulations are under­ taken for many purposes, including (1) the training of environmental de­ sign students and professionals, (2) the assessment of people's environ­ mental preferences, and (3) the incorporation of observers' assessments of simulated settings into the planning, design, and renovation of actual envi­ ronments to maximize the degree of fit between occupants' needs and the arrangement of their physical surroundings. Environmental simulation research has expanded rapidly during the past two decades as the result of increasing collaboration between behav­ ioral and social scientists, environmental designers, and professional plan­ ners. During this period, alternative conceptual and methodological ap­ proaches to environmental simulation have emerged, and numerous programs of simulation research have been initiated worldwide. To date, however, no attempt has been made to present a comprehensive review and assessment of these research developments and an analysis of their implications for design and public policy. Accordingly, the major objectives of this volume are to provide an overview of key conceptual and meth­ odological advances within the field of environmental simulation research and to place these diverse developments within a broader scientific and public policy context.
Integrating electronics into clothing is a major new concept, which opens up a whole array of multi-functional, wearable electro-textiles for sensing/monitoring body functions, delivering communication facilities, data transfer, individual environment control, and many other applications. With revolutionary advancements occurring at an unprecedented rate in many fields of science and electronics the possibilities offered by wearable technologies are tremendous and widespread. These advancements will transform the world and will soon begin to permeate into commercial products. The first section of the book discusses the materials and devices used in the field, including electro-statically generated nanofibres, electroceramic fibres and composites and electroactive fabrics. It summarizes recent developments in electrically conductive fabric structures and puts together a few theoretical treatments of the electro-mechanical properties of various fabric structures. The next section reviews topics related to wearable photonics such as fibre optic sensors and integrated smart textile structures, the developments in various flexible photonic display technologies as well as looking at current communication apparel and optical fibre fabric displays. Next the book focuses on integrated structures and system architectures. Finally the issues facing a fashion designer working with wearables are explored. Wearable electronics and photonics covers many aspects of the cutting-edge research and development into this exciting field and provides a window through which only a small portion of the exciting emerging technology can be seen. With contributions from a panel of international experts in the field this is an essential guide for all electrical, textile and biomedical engineers as well as academics and fashion designers.
Purpose: To determine the relationship between urban sprawl, health, and health-related behaviors. Design: Cross-sectional analysis using hierarchical modeling to relate characteristics of individuals and places to levels of physical activity, obesity, body mass index (BMI), hypertension, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Setting: U.S. counties (448) and metropolitan areas (83). Subjects: Adults (n = 206,992) from pooled 1998, 1999, and 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Measures: Sprawl indices, derived with principal components analysis from census and other data, served as independent variables. Self-reported behavior and health status from BRFSS served as dependent variables. Results: After controlling for demographic and behavioral covariates, the county sprawl index had small but significant associations with minutes walked (p = .004), obesity (p < .001), BMI (p = .005), and hypertension (p = .018). Residents of sprawling counties were likely to walk less during leisure time, weigh more, and have greater prevalence of hypertension than residents of compact counties. At the metropolitan level, sprawl was similarly associated with minutes walked (p = .04) but not with the other variables. Conclusion: This ecologic study reveals that urban form could be significantly associated with some forms of physical activity and some health outcomes. More research is needed to refine measures of urban form, improve measures of physical activity, and control for other individual and environmental influences on physical activity, obesity, and related health outcomes.