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The Influence of Urban Design and Planning on Physical Activity

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Abstract

As explored in previous chapters, rethinking the way cities are built to promote healthy and sustainable living is now a multi-sector pursuit. For public health, this has been fuelled by global concerns about rising levels of physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour, and obesity and their impact on major chronic diseases. However, the interventions required to address these major public health challenges (i.e., the creation of compact, pedestrian friendly accessible, attractive, safe and convivial neighbourhoods served by high quality public transport) will also help address other pressing global issues including managing population growth, climate change, and future proofing against declining oil supplies (Giles-Corti, Foster et al. 2010). Low-density, car-dependent communities are increasingly being shown to be detrimental to both human health and the environment. Communities such as this discourage physical activity while increasing sedentary behaviour, vehicle miles travelled and air pollution. As a result, built environment features that create urban sprawl are risk factors for preventable and now highly prevalent chronic diseases, the prevention of which represents the major public health challenge of the 21st century globally. Nevertheless, creating communities that support active living will produce ‘co-benefits’ across multiple sectors. The idea that city design impacts the health and wellbeing of residents is not new. The mass movement of people to cities in the 19th century spurred the first Public Health Act in the United Kingdom (UK), which successfully reduced infectious and respiratory diseases associated with crowding, poor sanitation and water quality, and exposure to pollution. Today, access to sanitation, clean water and safe affordable housing remain the building blocks of healthy urban development. In the 21st century, urban planning is not simply a vehicle for preventing infectious and respiratory diseases, but also a viable means of tackling major chronic diseases, with a particular emphasis on facilitating residents to be physically active: indeed physical activity is a ‘magic bullet’ for reducing the risk of major chronic diseases plaguing health systems. Hence, urban planning’s efforts in this area cannot be underestimated. This chapter explores the relationship between ‘place’ and physical activity. It begins by providing a rationale for why planners should prioritise neighbourhood designs that encourage residents to be physically active. It then reviews the evidence on community design features associated with various types of physical activity, before considering the implications for the planning of neighbourhoods. The question we hear you asking is ‘could this really work’? To answer this question, we present a case study on the implementation and evaluation of a state government’s planning policy in Western Australia. Finally, we offer some final thoughts to highlight the importance of your work as planners and creators of healthy urban developments.

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... A closer examination of literature in this domain unveils a gap between disciplines. Several scholars in urban design address the significance of design qualities in the public realm but not in-depth with the food domain (Carmona 2018;Giles-Corti et al. 2015;Ellin 2013;Gehl 1996). Other disciplines like urban planning pay particular attention to the urban policies of the food system in an attempt to create liveable communities (AbouZiyan, Khalifa, and Hassan 2018;Pothukuchi 2004;McClafferty 2000;Valentine 1998). ...
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While public health and urban planning fields worked closely to tackle communicable disease outbreaks in the 19th century, this collaboration faded during the 20th century. Over the last few decades, engagement in physical activity – even walking – has declined substantially, with serious impacts on population health. Recently there has been an emerging body of literature and guidance illustrating the role the built environment has in shaping health outcomes; much of this has focussed on physical activity behaviours. Associations between built environment attributes and physical activity have been reported by many studies, however the geographic scales at which these built environment attributes need to be measured and the magnitude of the built environment attributes required to support physical activity are not clear. Further studying these geographical scales and thresholds will facilitate development of specific guidance to urban designers and planners to create supportive built environments to facilitate physical activity engagement. This is an important addition for re-connecting the fields of public health and urban design and planning.
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Associations between access to local destinations and children’s independent mobility (IM) were examined. In 2007, 10- to 12-year-olds (n = 1,480) and their parents (n = 1,314) completed a survey. Children marked on a map the destinations they walked or cycled to (n = 1,132), and the availability of local destinations was assessed using Geographic Information Systems. More independently mobile children traveled to local destinations than other children. The odds of IM more than halved in both boys and girls whose parents reported living on a busy road (boys, OR = 0.48; girls, OR = 0.36) and in boys who lived near shopping centers (OR = 0.18) or community services (OR = 0.25). Conversely, the odds of IM more than doubled in girls living in neighborhoods with well-connected low-traffic streets (OR = 2.32) and increased in boys with access to local recreational (OR = 1.67) and retail (OR = 1.42) destinations. Creating safe and accessible places and routes may facilitate children’s IM, partly by shaping parent’s and children’s feelings of safety while enhancing their confidence in the child’s ability to use active modes without an adult.
Article
Background Well-designed public open space (POS) that encourages physical activity is a community asset that could potentially contribute to the health of local residents. Methods In 1995–1996, two studies were conducted—an environmental audit of POS over 2 acres (n =516) within a 408-km2 area of metropolitan Perth, Western Australia; and personal interviews with 1803 adults (aged 18 to 59 years) (52.9% response rate). The association between access to POS and physical activity was examined using three accessibility models that progressively adjusted for distance to POS, and its attractiveness and size. In 2002, an observational study examined the influence of attractiveness on the use of POS by observing users of three pairs of high- and low-quality (based on attractiveness) POS matched for size and location. Results Overall, 28.8% of respondents reported using POS for physical activity. The likelihood of using POS increased with increasing levels of access, but the effect was greater in the model that adjusted for distance, attractiveness, and size. After adjustment, those with very good access to large, attractive POS were 50% more likely to achieve high levels of walking (odds ratio, 1.50; 95% confidence level, 1.06–2.13). The observational study showed that after matching POS for size and location, 70% of POS users observed visited attractive POS. Conclusions Access to attractive, large POS is associated with higher levels of walking. To increase walking, thoughtful design (and redesign) of POS is required that creates large, attractive POS with facilities that encourage active use by multiple users (e.g., walkers, sports participants, picnickers).
Article
There are a series of discrete but related critiques of the contemporary public space situation, and it was these that the first part of this paper identified and organized. These drew on different scholarly traditions to highlight the key tensions at the heart of the contemporary public space debate. It revealed that critiques of public space could broadly be placed into two camps: those who argue that public space is over-managed, and those who argue that it is under-managed. This second part of the paper begins by arguing that both over and under-management critiques result in the same end, a homogenization of public space, although these outcomes may not be as stark as many of the critics would have us believe. What is clear is that the critiques reveal a range of public space types and means of classification. These are used in a final section of this paper to suggest a new typology of public space, one based on how public space is managed.
Article
Objectives: We examined whether people moving into a housing development designed according to a state government livable neighborhoods subdivision code engage in more walking than do people who move to other types of developments. Methods: In a natural experiment of 1813 people building homes in 73 new housing developments in Perth, Western Australia, we surveyed participants before and then 12 and 36 months after moving. We measured self-reported walking using the Neighborhood Physical Activity Questionnaire and collected perceptions of the environment and self-selection factors. We calculated objective measures of the built environment using a Geographic Information System. Results: After relocation, participants in livable versus conventional developments had greater street connectivity, residential density, land use mix, and access to destinations and more positive perceptions of their neighborhood (all P < .05). However, there were no significant differences in walking over time by type of development (P > .05). Conclusions: Implementation of the Livable Neighborhoods Guidelines produced more supportive environments; however, the level of intervention was insufficient to encourage more walking. Evaluations of new urban planning policies need to incorporate longer term follow-up to allow time for new neighborhoods to develop.
Article
Parks and other forms of green space are among the key environmental supports for recreational physical activity. Measurements of green space access have provided mixed results as to the influence of green space access on physical activity. This cross-sectional study uses a geographical information system (GIS) to examine the relationships between the amount of and distance to green space and county-level (n = 67) moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in the state of Florida. The gross amount of green space in a county (P < .05) and the amount of green space within defined distances of where people live (1/4 mile, P < .01; 1/2 mile, P < .05; 1 mile, P < .01) were positively associated with self-reported levels of MVPA. Distance to the nearest green space and the amount of green space furthest from where people live (10 miles) were not significantly associated with MVPA. All measures were weighted by the population living in census tracts. The results suggest that there is an association between the accessibility created by having more green space closer to home and MVPA, but this holds only for areas up to and including 1 mile from home.
Article
The design of urban environments has the potential to enhance the health and well-being of residents by impacting social determinants of health including access to public transport, green space and local amenities. Commencing in 2003, RESIDE is a longitudinal natural experiment examining the impact of urban planning on active living in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Participants building homes in new housing developments were surveyed before relocation (n = 1813; 34·6% recruitment rate); and approximately 12 months later (n = 1437). Changes in perceived and objective neighbourhood characteristics associated with walking following relocation were examined, adjusted for changes in demographic, intrapersonal, interpersonal and baseline reasons for residential location choice. Self-reported walking was measured using the Neighbourhood Physical Activity Questionnaire. Following relocation, transport-related walking declined overall (p < 0.001) and recreational walking increased (p < 0.001): access to transport- and recreational destinations changed in similar directions. However, in those with increased access to destinations, transport-related walking increased by 5.8 min/week for each type of transport-related destination that increased (p = 0.045); and recreational walking by 17.6 min/week for each type of recreational destination that increased (p = 0.070). The association between the built environment and recreational walking was partially mediated by changes in perceived neighbourhood attractiveness: when changes in 'enjoyment' and 'attitude' towards local walking were removed from the multivariate model, recreational walking returned to 20.1 min/week (p = 0.040) for each type of recreational destination that increased. This study provides longitudinal evidence that both transport and recreational-walking behaviours respond to changes in the availability and diversity of local transport- and recreational destinations, and demonstrates the potential of local infrastructure to support health-enhancing behaviours. As neighbourhoods evolve, longer-term follow-up is required to fully capture changes that occur, and the impact on residents. The potential for using policies, incentives and infrastructure levies to enable the early introduction of recreational and transport-related facilities into new housing developments warrants further investigation.
Article
Objective: The objective of this study was to identify school environmental characteristics associated with moderate to vigorous physical activity during school recess, including morning and lunch breaks. Methods: Accelerometry data, child-level characteristics and school physical activity, policy and socio-cultural data were collected from 408 sixth grade children (mean age 11 years) attending 27 metropolitan primary schools in Perth, Western Australia. Hierarchical modelling identified key characteristics associated with children's recess moderate to vigorous physical activity (RMVPA). Results: Nearly 40% of variability in children's RMVPA was explained by school environment and individual characteristics identified in this study. Children's higher daily RMVPA was associated with newer schools, schools with a higher number of grassed surfaces per child and fewer shaded grassed surfaces, and the physical education coordinator meeting Australian physical activity guidelines. Conclusions: Characteristics of the school physical and social environments are strongly correlated with children's MPVA during recess. Implications: The school environment is an ideal target for maximising children's physical activity during recess. Future research could examine the impact of modifying these environmental characteristics on children's school physical activity.
Article
Strong evidence shows that physical inactivity increases the risk of many adverse health conditions, including major non-communicable diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers, and shortens life expectancy. Because much of the world's population is inactive, this link presents a major public health issue. We aimed to quantify the eff ect of physical inactivity on these major non-communicable diseases by estimating how much disease could be averted if inactive people were to become active and to estimate gain in life expectancy at the population level. For our analysis of burden of disease, we calculated population attributable fractions (PAFs) associated with physical inactivity using conservative assumptions for each of the major non-communicable diseases, by country, to estimate how much disease could be averted if physical inactivity were eliminated. We used life-table analysis to estimate gains in life expectancy of the population. Worldwide, we estimate that physical inactivity causes 6% (ranging from 3·2% in southeast Asia to 7·8% in the eastern Mediterranean region) of the burden of disease from coronary heart disease, 7% (3·9-9·6) of type 2 diabetes, 10% (5·6-14·1) of breast cancer, and 10% (5·7-13·8) of colon cancer. Inactivity causes 9% (range 5·1-12·5) of premature mortality, or more than 5·3 million of the 57 million deaths that occurred worldwide in 2008. If inactivity were not eliminated, but decreased instead by 10% or 25%, more than 533 000 and more than 1·3 million deaths, respectively, could be averted every year. We estimated that elimination of physical inactivity would increase the life expectancy of the world's population by 0·68 (range 0·41-0·95) years. Physical inactivity has a major health eff ect worldwide. Decrease in or removal of this unhealthy behaviour could improve health substantially. None.
Article
The majority of older people in the UK are not sufficiently active. Since physical inactivity is a very common, yet preventable, health risk, promoting an active lifestyle is considered one of the most important health initiatives. In recent research on physical activity, an increasing interest has been paid to the role of environmental variables. Such research has demonstrated that overall characteristics of neighbourhood environments predict residents’ physical activity patterns. However, there is a limited understanding about how natural, open spaces in a neighbourhood such as parks are involved in people's activity. This study examines what aspects of neighbourhood open space are associated with walking for recreation and for transport by older people. The study sample consisted of 286 people over 65 years old living in Britain who completed a self-administered questionnaire. Logistic regression analyses were carried out to examine associations between the level of walking and six attributes of neighbourhood open space, which were identified through principal component analysis. It was found that pleasantness of open space and lack of nuisance were associated with walking for recreation, while good paths to reach open space and good facilities in open space were conducive to more walking for transport. The study suggests the possibility that enhancing these aspects of neighbourhood open spaces may contribute to active lifestyles of older adults.
Article
There is growing evidence that residents are more likely to walk in attractive neighbourhoods, and that negative visual cues can deter residents from engaging in physical activity. This study explored the premise that house design and upkeep could inhibit the incidence of physical disorder in suburban streets, thus contributing to a more pleasant walking environment for pedestrians. Street segments (n = 443) in new residential developments (n = 61) in Perth, Western Australia, were audited for house attributes that facilitate natural surveillance (e.g., porch/verandah) or indicate territoriality (e.g., garden/lawn upkeep), and physical incivilities. A composite index of street-level house attributes yielded highly significant associations with disorder (trend test p = 0.001) and graffiti (trend test p = 0.005), signifying that the cumulative effect of several key attributes had greater potential to discourage incivilities in the street than any single characteristic. The findings suggest house design and upkeep may contribute to the creation of safe, inviting streets for pedestrians.
Article
This paper looks at pedestrian travel in Atlanta by US youths aged 5–18 years. Relationships between five urban form variables and walking in specific demographic subgroups are assessed using stratified logistic models and controlling for participant demographics. All five urban form and recreation measures were related to walking among whites, but only land use mix and access to recreation spaces were significantly related to walking in non-whites. There were more significant urban form physical activity associations in high-income than in low-income households. More urban form variables were related to walking in households with 3 or more cars than in households with no cars. Living in mixed use-areas and having access to recreational space were related to youth walking for transport in 11 of 13 population subgroups studied.
Article
Background: The presence and mix of destinations is an important aspect of the built environment that may encourage or discourage physical activity. This study examined the association between the proximity and mix of neighbourhood destinations and physical activity. Methods: Secondary analysis was undertaken on physical activity data from Western Australian adults (n=1394). These data were linked with geographical information systems (GIS) data including the presence and the mix of destinations located within 400 and 1500 m from respondents' homes. Associations with walking for transport and recreation and vigorous physical activity were examined. Results: Access to post boxes, bus stops, convenience stores, newsagencies, shopping malls, and transit stations within 400 m (OR 1.63-5.00) and schools, transit stations, newsagencies, convenience stores and shopping malls within 1500 m (OR 1.75-2.38) was associated with participation in regular transport-related walking. A dose-response relationship between the mix of destinations and walking for transport was also found. Each additional destination within 400 and 1500 m resulted in an additional 12 and 11 min/fortnight spent walking for transport, respectively. Conclusion: Proximity and mix of destinations appears strongly associated with walking for transport, but not walking for recreation or vigorous activity. Increasing the diversity of destinations may contribute to adults doing more transport-related walking and achieving recommended levels of physical activity.
Article
Background: This study examines the relationships between the availability and use of recreational destinations and physical activity. Methods: Analysis included n = 1355 respondents. Associations between the density of free and pay-for-use recreational destinations, demographics, and use of free and pay-for-use recreational destinations within the neighborhood were examined, followed by associations with sufficient moderate and vigorous physical activity using generalized estimating equations. Results: The likelihood of using a local pay recreational destination increased for each additional local pay facility (OR 1.51, 95% CI 1.32 to 1.73) and was lower for those with motor vehicle access (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.26 to 0.99). The likelihood of using a local free destination increased for each additional local free facility (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.20) and was higher among women (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.11 to 2.44). Destination use was associated with both moderate and vigorous-intensity physical activity. Conclusions: Increasing the density of neighborhood recreational destinations is associated with the use of facilities and participation in sufficient levels of physical activity.
Article
Increasing adults' physical activity through environmental initiatives that promote walking as a public health priority. To this end, evidence relevant to the urban planning and transport sectors is required. This review synthesized findings on destination and route attributes associated with utilitarian and recreational walking. A literature search was conducted in April 2011 using Web of Science, PubMed, Transport Research Information Services, GEOBASE, and SPORTDiscus. Environmental attributes were classified into the domains of utilitarian and recreational destinations (presence, proximity, quality) and route (sidewalks, connectivity, aesthetics, traffic, safety). Forty-six studies examining associations of these attributes with utilitarian and/or recreational walking were identified. Specific destination and route attributes associated with each type of walking were summarized. Adults' utilitarian walking was consistently associated with presence and proximity of retail and service destinations (in 80% of the studies reviewed). It was also associated with functional aspects of routes (sidewalks and street connectivity) in 50% of studies. Recreational walking was associated with presence, proximity, and quality of recreational destinations (35% of studies) and route aesthetic (35% of studies). Both types of walking were found unrelated to route safety and traffic in most studies. There is consistent evidence that better access to relevant neighborhood destinations (e.g., local stores, services, transit stops) can be conducive to adults' utilitarian walking. Some evidence also suggests that availability of sidewalks and well-connected streets can facilitate utilitarian walking. To better inform initiatives to promote adults' walking in the planning and transport sectors, future studies need to examine how accessible such destinations should be, as well as the effect of the quality of recreational destinations.
Article
Efforts to increase the prevalence of children's active school transport require evidence to inform the development of comprehensive interventions. This study used a multilevel ecological framework to investigate individual, social, and environmental factors associated with walking to and from school among elementary school-aged children, stratified by gender. Boys aged 10 to 13 years (n = 617) and girls aged 9 to 13 years (n = 681) attending 25 Australian primary schools located in high or low walkable neighborhoods completed a 1-week travel diary and a parent/child questionnaire on travel habits and attitudes. Boys were more likely (odds ratio [OR] = 3.37; p < .05) to walk if their school neighborhood had high connectivity and low traffic and less likely to walk if they had to cross a busy road (OR = 0.49; p < .05). For girls, confidence in their ability to walk to or from school without an adult (OR = 2.03), school encouragement (OR = 2.43), scheduling commitments (OR = 0.41), and parent-perceived convenience of driving (OR = 0.24) were significantly associated (p < .05) with walking. Irrespective of gender and proximity to school, child-perceived convenience of walking (boys OR = 2.17 and girls OR = 1.84) and preference to walk to school (child perceived, boys OR = 5.57, girls OR = 1.84 and parent perceived, boys OR = 2.82, girls OR = 1.90) were consistently associated (p < .05) with walking to and from school. Although there are gender differences in factors influencing children walking to and from school, proximity to school, the safety of the route, and family time constraints are consistent correlates. These need to be addressed if more children are to be encouraged to walk to and from school.
Article
The impact of neighborhood walkability (based on street connectivity and traffic exposure) within 2 km of public primary schools on children regularly walking to school was examined. The most (n=13) and least walkable (n=12) schools were selected using a school-specific 'walkability' index and a cross sectional study undertaken of Year 5, 6 and 7 children (n=1480) and consenting parents (n=1332). After adjustment, regularly walking to school was higher in children attending schools in high walkable neighborhoods (i.e, high street connectivity and low traffic volume) (Odds ratio (OR) 3.63; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 2.01-6.56), and less likely in neighborhoods with high connectivity but high traffic volume (OR 0.32; 95% CI 0.22-0.47). Connected street networks provide direct routes to school but when designed for heavy traffic, the potential for children to walk to school is reduced. This highlights the importance of carefully considering school siting and, particularly, street design in school neighborhoods.
Article
This study investigated the relationship between individual and neighborhood environmental factors and cycling for transport and for recreation among adults living in Perth, Western Australia. Baseline cross-sectional data from 1813 participants (40.5% male; age range 18 to 78 years) in the RESIDential Environment (RESIDE) project were analyzed. The questionnaire included information on cycling behavior and on cycling-specific individual, social environmental, and neighborhood environmental attributes. Cycling for transport and recreation were dichotomized as whether or not individuals cycled in a usual week. Among the individual factors, positive attitudes toward cycling and perceived behavioral control increased the odds of cycling for transport and for recreation. Among the neighborhood environmental attributes, leafy and attractive neighborhoods, access to bicycle/walking paths, the presence of traffic slowing devices and having many 4-way street intersections were positively associated with cycling for transport. Many alternative routes in the local area increased the odds of cycling for recreation. Effective strategies for increasing cycling (particularly cycling for transport) may include incorporating supportive environments such as creating leafy and attractive neighborhood surroundings, low traffic speed, and increased street connectivity, in addition to campaigns aimed at strengthening positive attitudes and confidence to cycle.
Article
Background and Aims: Children's declining physical activity has attracted attention from those concerned with the health and well-being of the young. The present study aims to determine if the extent of walking to and from a school with an active participation program differed from that in another school without a program. Method and Results: Data from 21 parents of Grade 7 children from School A, sourced from a previous study, were compared with data from parents of Grade 7 children in School B, collected using the same questionnaire. No significant difference in the mean number of days walked to (t= 0.098, P= 0.92) or from school (t= 0.251, P= 0.80) was identified. Conclusions: This small-scale project suggests that a mélange of variables has the potential to influence children's incidental activity levels.
Article
As anyone who has flown into Los Angeles at dusk or Houston at midday knows, urban areas today defy traditional notions of what a city is. Our old definitions of urban, suburban, and rural fail to capture the complexity of these vast regions with their superhighways, subdivisions, industrial areas, office parks, and resort areas pushing far out into the countryside. Detractors call it sprawl and assert that it is economically inefficient, socially inequitable, environmentally irresponsible, and aesthetically ugly. Robert Bruegmann calls it a logical consequence of economic growth and the democratization of society, with benefits that urban planners have failed to recognize. In his incisive history of the expanded city, Bruegmann overturns every assumption we have about sprawl. Taking a long view of urban development, he demonstrates that sprawl is neither recent nor particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, and choice that were once the exclusive prerogatives of the rich and powerful. The first major book to strip urban sprawl of its pejorative connotations, Sprawl offers a completely new vision of the city and its growth. Bruegmann leads readers to the powerful conclusion that "in its immense complexity and constant change, the city-whether dense and concentrated at its core, looser and more sprawling in suburbia, or in the vast tracts of exurban penumbra that extend dozens, even hundreds, of miles-is the grandest and most marvelous work of mankind." “Largely missing from this debate [over sprawl] has been a sound and reasoned history of this pattern of living. With Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History, we now have one. What a pleasure it is: well-written, accessible and eager to challenge the current cant about sprawl.”—Joel Kotkin, The Wall Street Journal “There are scores of books offering ‘solutions’ to sprawl. Their authors would do well to read this book.”—Witold Rybczynski, Slate
Article
Introduction This study assessed the relative contributions of psychological, social, and environmental variables to walking, moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity. Methods A questionnaire was mailed to a random sample (57% response rate). Analyses used a backwards elimination logistic regression model, removing and replacing individual variables, and adjusting for age, gender, household composition, and education ( N = 1827). Results The sociodemographic and correlate variables collectively accounted for 43% of the variation in total activity, 26% of walking, 22% of moderate-intensity activity and 45% of vigorous-intensity activity (Nagelkerke R ² ). Individually, the correlates accounted for 0.0 to 4.0% of unique variation, with habit, efficacy, and support having higher values. Physical health, discouragement, competition, and time management contributed more to vigorous-intensity activity. Anticipated benefits of social interactions and weight management contributed more to moderate-intensity activity. Neighborhood aesthetics contributed more to walking. Conclusion Walking, moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity might be associated with different correlates.
Article
Studies have identified various environmental factors associated with physical activity. However, mixed findings have been reported on environment correlates of physical activity for recreation. Using a sample of Australian adults (n=2194), we examined perceived environmental attributes associated with recreational physical activity or exercise taking place on neighbourhood streets, which are known to be frequently used for such activity. Attractiveness, street connectivity, access to outdoor recreational facilities and access to places of interest were significantly associated with neighbourhood street use after adjusting for socio-demographic variables. Enhancing these environmental attributes and perceptions about them may be effective in promoting residents' physical activity.
Article
We investigated the relationship of perceived environmental characteristics to self-reported physical activity in Texas adults using 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data. The 2 research questions were, "Are perceived neighborhood characteristics and reported use of facilities associated with self-reported leisure-time physical activity for male and female Texas residents aged 18 to 64 years?" and "Are perceived neighborhood characteristics and reported use of facilities related to meeting recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity for Texas men and women aged 18 to 64 years?" Descriptive statistics and multiple logistic regression were used for the analyses. Multiple logistic regression analyses controlling for sociodemographic factors showed that for women, perceptions of neighbors being physically active, pleasantness of the neighborhood, lighting, safety, and feelings of neighbor trustworthiness were associated with leisure-time physical activity. Several of these variables were also related to meeting recommendations for physical activity. Reports of use of several types of neighborhood facilities were related to men's and women's leisure-time physical activity and with meeting recommendations for physical activity for women. Perceptions of neighborhood characteristics and reported use of facilities were related to physical activity and to meeting recommendations for physical activity, with stronger associations for women than for men. Interventions to increase levels of physical activity among Texans should be informed by multilevel assessments including environmental characteristics and by attention to important subpopulations.
Article
Research on physical activity and the physical environment is at the correlates stage, so it is premature to attribute causal effects. This paper provides a conceptual approach to understanding how the physical design of neighborhoods may influence behavior by disentangling the potential effects of income, university education, poverty, and degree of urbanization on the relationship between walking to work and neighborhood design characteristics. The study merges Canadian data from 27 neighborhood observations with information on walking to work from the 1996 census. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to create a latent environment score based on 18 neighborhood characteristics (e.g., variety of destinations, visual aesthetics, and traffic). The relationship between the environment score and walking to work was modeled at the second level, controlling for income, university education, poverty, and degree of urbanization. With the exceptions of visual interest and aesthetics, each neighborhood characteristic contributed significantly to the environment score. The environment score was positively associated with walking to work, both with and without adjustment for degree of urbanization. Controlling for university education, income, and poverty did not influence these relationships. The positive association between the environment score and walking to work, controlling for degree of urbanization supports the current movement toward the development of integrated communities for housing, shops, workplaces, schools, and public spaces. Given the need for research to guide environmental interventions, collaboration among public health practitioners, urban planners, and transportation researchers is essential to integrate knowledge across sectors.
Article
Well-designed public open space (POS) that encourages physical activity is a community asset that could potentially contribute to the health of local residents. In 1995-1996, two studies were conducted-an environmental audit of POS over 2 acres (n =516) within a 408-km2 area of metropolitan Perth, Western Australia; and personal interviews with 1803 adults (aged 18 to 59 years) (52.9% response rate). The association between access to POS and physical activity was examined using three accessibility models that progressively adjusted for distance to POS, and its attractiveness and size. In 2002, an observational study examined the influence of attractiveness on the use of POS by observing users of three pairs of high- and low-quality (based on attractiveness) POS matched for size and location. Overall, 28.8% of respondents reported using POS for physical activity. The likelihood of using POS increased with increasing levels of access, but the effect was greater in the model that adjusted for distance, attractiveness, and size. After adjustment, those with very good access to large, attractive POS were 50% more likely to achieve high levels of walking (odds ratio, 1.50; 95% confidence level, 1.06-2.13). The observational study showed that after matching POS for size and location, 70% of POS users observed visited attractive POS. Access to attractive, large POS is associated with higher levels of walking. To increase walking, thoughtful design (and redesign) of POS is required that creates large, attractive POS with facilities that encourage active use by multiple users (e.g., walkers, sports participants, picnickers).
Article
Enhancing community environments to support walking and bicycling serves as a promising approach to increase population levels of physical activity. However, few studies have simultaneously assessed perceptions and objectively measured environmental factors and their relative association with transportation or recreational physical activity. For this cross-sectional study, high- and low-income study areas were selected among census tracts in St. Louis MO ("low-walkable" city) and Savannah GA ("high-walkable" city). Between February and June 2002, a telephone survey of 1068 adults provided measures of the perceived environment and physical activity behavior. In this timeframe, objective measures were collected through environmental audits of all street segments (n =1158). These measures were summarized using 400-m buffers surrounding each respondent. Neighborhood characteristics included the land use environment, transportation environment, recreational facilities, aesthetics, and social environment. Associations were examined between neighborhood features and transportation- and recreation-based activity. After adjusting for age, gender, and education, transportation activity was negatively associated with objective measures of sidewalk levelness and perceived and objective neighborhood aesthetics. It was positively associated with perceived and objectively measured number of destinations and public transit, perceived access to bike lanes, and objective counts of active people in the neighborhood. Recreational activity was positively associated with perceived access to recreational facilities and objective measures of attractive features. These findings indicate that physical activities for transportation or recreational are associated with different perceived and objective environmental characteristics. Modifications to these features may change the physical activity behavior of residents exposed to them.