Do attributes in the physical environment influence children’s physical activity? A review of literature

Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, University at Albany (SUNY), Albany, NY, USA.
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (Impact Factor: 4.11). 02/2006; 3(1):19. DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-3-19
Source: PubMed


Many youth today are physically inactive. Recent attention linking the physical or built environment to physical activity in adults suggests an investigation into the relationship between the built environment and physical activity in children could guide appropriate intervention strategies.
Thirty three quantitative studies that assessed associations between the physical environment (perceived or objectively measured) and physical activity among children (ages 3 to 18-years) and fulfilled selection criteria were reviewed. Findings were categorized and discussed according to three dimensions of the physical environment including recreational infrastructure, transport infrastructure, and local conditions.
Results across the various studies showed that children's participation in physical activity is positively associated with publicly provided recreational infrastructure (access to recreational facilities and schools) and transport infrastructure (presence of sidewalks and controlled intersections, access to destinations and public transportation). At the same time, transport infrastructure (number of roads to cross and traffic density/speed) and local conditions (crime, area deprivation) are negatively associated with children's participation in physical activity.
Results highlight links between the physical environment and children's physical activity. Additional research using a transdisciplinary approach and assessing moderating and mediating variables is necessary to appropriately inform policy efforts.

Download full-text


Available from: Kirsten K Davison, Jul 28, 2014
  • Source
    • "Similar to the findings among adult populations, children's active travel was found to be positively associated with street connectivity and accessibility to daily destinations (Braza 2004; Ewing, Schroeer, and Greene 2004; Timperio et al. 2006), while children's recreational activity (consisting mainly of outdoors play) was found to be associated with high access to well-maintained recreational facilities (Sallis and Glanz 2006; Holt et al. 2008; Roemmich et al. 2007). In addition, children's walking and bicycling were found to be related to various environmental attributes, such as pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure , street connectivity, and green open spaces (Davison and Lawson 2006; Ferreira et al. 2007; Sallis, Pruchaska, and Taylor 2000). Additional environmental attributes that were found to be important for children's physical activity include measures of road safety (e.g., traffic volume, presences of cross walks) and crime-related safety (e.g., street lights, presence of strangers) (Boarnet et al. 2005; Sallis and Glanz 2006; Timperio et al. 2004; Timperio et al. 2006). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Previous studies examined environmental correlates of children’s physical activity. While most of these studies used aggregated physical activity measures (i.e., overall physical activity, active travel), little is known about the contribution of specific environmental attributes to specific types of physical activity. This study examined associations between GIS-based environmental measures and children’s selfreported walking and bicycling. The study area included “traditional neighborhoods” (N=4), characterized by high-density, land-use mix and grid-street network, and “suburban neighborhoods” (N=3), characterized by low-density, land-use segregation, and cul-de-sac streets. Data on children’s physical activity and psychosocial and socio-demographic factors were obtained through a school survey (of fifth and sixth graders) (N=573). Urban-form measures (intersection density, residential density, and built coverage) were significantly positively associated with walking and negatively associated with bicycling. These associations remained significant after controlling for social, intra- and inter-personal factors. These findings suggest that certain environments may encourage children’s walking and hinder their bicycling at the same time (and vice versa) and therefore raise the need for a more clear distinction between child-related walkability and bikeablilty.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Journal of Transport and Land Use
    • "'The built environment' refers to objective and subjective characteristics of the physical context in which people spend their time, including aspects of urban design, land use and transportation. It also shapes and is shaped by patterns of human activity (adapted from Davison and Lawson, 2006; Handy et al., 2002). Two built environment scales that are relevant for this paper are the 'city' – the product of a socioorganisational process of urbanisation (Harvey, 1996) that is expressed territorially as well as economically, socially, politically and ecologically (Park, 1925) – and the 'neighbourhood' – 'a delineated area within physical boundaries where people identify their home and where they live out and organise their private lives' (Power and Bergin (1999), p. 9; see also Kearns and Parkinson (2001) for a discussion of the multiscalar nature of neighbourhoods). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions often focus on the need to change existing behaviours and social practices as well as to provide technological advances in energy supply, waste, transport, industry and infrastructure. While fundamentally important to the mitigation of climate change, little is written about the impact that achieving carbon dioxide reduction targets, particularly for the built environment, will have on individual and societal well-being and quality of life. This paper investigates how a set of measures can be developed to assess well-being in cities, both as they are at present and as they transition to ‘low-carbon-dioxide’ futures. It outlines the important relationship between well-being, low-carbon-dioxide development and the built environment. A strategy for obtaining and assessing well-being measures is explained, the measures are discussed and 100 selected measures are detailed. The paper ends by illustrating how these measures can be integrated into a wider study of well-being.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Urban Design and Planning
    • "Whilst some have questioned the importance of geographical factors within such frameworks, others suggest that the lack of facilities can impinge on people's perceptions, if not their use, of recreational choices (Jackson, 1994). Previous reviews have drawn attention to the different approaches used to define the physical environment in general, and elements of the sporting infrastructure in particular, that tend to be adopted in such studies (Davison and Lawson, 2006). So whilst acknowledging that access to sporting facilities is multi-faceted and encompasses financial and educational aspects in addition to geographical availability, research aimed at providing a more nuanced understanding of spatial variations at detailed spatial scales remains a priority (Karusisi et al., 2013). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Previous studies concerned with investigating the relationship between levels of physical activity and aspects of the built environment have often led to inconsistent and mixed findings concerning associations between the availability of recreational or sport facilities and area socio-economic status. Further complications may arise when analysis is conducted separately for access to either publicly available or private facilities or where alternative methodological approaches to measuring accessibility are adopted. This paper provides a review of such research before exploring the potential use of methods for examining variations in accessibility based on enhanced floating catchment area (FCA) models which are increasingly being advocated in medical geography applications. Using bespoke tools developed within a commercial GIS package, which are being made publicly available by the authors, and a national database of sport facilities, variations in accessibility are investigated in relation to a widely used measure of deprivation in the UK. Findings from this analysis suggest that whilst those living in deprived areas of Wales have greater potential access to publicly available sporting opportunities, associations with privately owned facilities are reversed for some distance thresholds and at different spatial scales. The paper concludes by drawing attention to the implications of such findings given current financial pressures on local government and other sport and leisure providers and highlights how spatial analytical techniques can be used to monitor such trends.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Geoforum
Show more