Built Environment Correlates of Walking: A Review

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


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

Download full-text


Available from: Brian Saelens, Jan 06, 2014
  • Source
    • "Other dimensions are specific determinants of walking (and also of cycling), including topography, aesthetics (parks and open spaces, trees, etc.) and safety; although these aspects are less studied and results remain equivocal (Pikora et al. 2003;Saelens, Sallis, and Frank 2003;Hoehner et al. 2005;Saelens and Handy 2008). As can be seen inwe recognize these additional dimensions in our conceptual framework, but further research is needed to properly parameterize them. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: As stated by the Behavioral Model of the Environment, the built environment has a clear influence on walking at three different levels: origins and destinations, the areas surrounding them, and the routes connecting them. Nevertheless, the vast majority of research on the relationship between the built environment and travel has focused on origins and the areas surrounding them (the residential neighborhood), so our understanding of the influence of destinations and routes remains limited. In this paper, we develop a Structural Equations Model to explain pedestrian commuting behavior, i.e. walking distance and number of walking trips, controlling for socio-economic factors, attitudes and commuting distance, whilst comparing the built environments of origins with those of destinations. The built environment was described by means of several GIS-based indicators reflecting density, diversity, design and accessibility, using floating catchment areas for each building identified as an origin or destination of any trip. Our results show that the characteristics of destinations are significant predictors of walking behavior. Moreover, accessibility assumes a mediating role between the built environment and walking behavior, suggesting that it should be explicitly measured to explain that behavior and conceived not as an additional dimension of the built environment, but as a variable determined by it. Therefore, special attention should be paid towards urban planning of major urban destinations, since improving their multimodal accessibility and local walking conditions can contribute to increased walking activity.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · International Journal of Sustainable Transportation
  • Source
    • "Notably, the most active subgroup also reported the highest levels of seeing others walking or cycling in their neighborhood—a form of positive social modeling that has been reported in other studies of midlife and older adults[58,59]. Walking is the physical activity behavior that has been linked most often to built environment features, and differences in reported walking were observed among the subgroups identified in the recursive partitioning analyses484950. In contrast, levels of total daily movement and regular physical activity, measured using accelerometry and the CHAMPS questionnaire, respectively, did not significantly discriminate between the subgroups. Such activity measures assess additional aspects of physical activity that may have little to do directly with neighborhood features (e.g., activity occurring inside the home or at a community venue)[48]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background: Obesity is an increasingly prevalent condition among older adults, yet relatively little is known about how built environment variables may be associated with obesity in older age groups. This is particularly the case for more vulnerable older adults already showing functional limitations associated with subsequent disability. Methods: The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial dataset (n = 1600) was used to explore the associations between perceived built environment variables and baseline obesity levels. Age-stratified recursive partitioning methods were applied to identify distinct subgroups with varying obesity prevalence. Results: Among participants aged 70-78 years, four distinct subgroups, defined by combinations of perceived environment and race-ethnicity variables, were identified. The subgroups with the lowest obesity prevalence (45.5-59.4 %) consisted of participants who reported living in neighborhoods with higher residential density. Among participants aged 79-89 years, the subgroup (of three distinct subgroups identified) with the lowest obesity prevalence (19.4 %) consisted of non-African American/Black participants who reported living in neighborhoods with friends or acquaintances similar in demographic characteristics to themselves. Overall support for the partitioned subgroupings was obtained using mixed model regression analysis. Conclusions: The results suggest that, in combination with race/ethnicity, features of the perceived neighborhood built and social environments differentiated distinct groups of vulnerable older adults from different age strata that differed in obesity prevalence. Pending further verification, the results may help to inform subsequent targeting of such subgroups for further investigation. Trial registration: Identifier = NCT01072500.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • Source
    • "We assume that people receive private utility from walking in a residential neighbourhood. We further assume 'weak complementarity' between walking and a neighbourhood's pedestrian characteristics: as a neighbourhood becomes more walkable, walking in the neighbourhood increases (Saelens and Handy, 2008; Wilson et al., 2011). This latter assumption allows us to build a utility function that permits us to model changes in a public good e improvement in neighbourhood pedestrian characteristics e and to trace these changes to changes in consumption of a complementary private good e individual walking activity in the neighbourhood. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Walking is the most common form of moderate-intensity physical activity among adults, is widely accessible and especially appealing to obese people. Most often policy makers are interested in valuing the effect on walking of changes in some characteristics of a neighbourhood, the demand response for walking, of infrastructure changes. A positive demand response to improvements in the walking environment could help meet the public health target of 150 min of at least moderate-intensity physical activity per week. We model walking in an individual's local neighbourhood as a 'weak complement' to the characteristics of the neighbourhood itself. Walking is affected by neighbourhood characteristics, substitutes, and individual's characteristics, including their opportunity cost of time. Using compensating variation, we assess the economic benefits of walking and how walking behaviour is affected by improvements to the neighbourhood. Using a sample of 1209 respondents surveyed over a 12 month period (Feb 2010-Jan 2011) in East Belfast, United Kingdom, we find that a policy that increased walkability and people's perception of access to shops and facilities would lead to an increase in walking of about 36 min/person/week, valued at £13.65/person/week. When focussing on inactive residents, a policy that improved the walkability of the area would lead to guidelines for physical activity being reached by only 12.8% of the population who are currently inactive. Additional interventions would therefore be needed to encourage inactive residents to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity, as it appears that interventions that improve the walkability of an area are particularly effective in increasing walking among already active citizens, and, among the inactive ones, the best response is found among healthier, younger and wealthier citizens.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Social Science [?] Medicine
Show more