Online Program

Who benefits from walkability? relationships between the built environment and neighborhood-based physical activity among subpopulations

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gavin McCormack, BSc, MSc, PhD (Public Health), Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Alan Shiell, BSc, MSc, PhD, Head Office, Centre of Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science, Carlton, Australia
Background: A growing body of evidence suggests that higher levels of neighborhood walkability can encourage higher levels of physical activity. Knowing whether the influence of the neighborhood built environment on physical activity is heterogeneous across subpopulations is important for better understanding the causes of health inequalities. We examined whether associations between neighborhood walkability and physical activity are similar for adults with different sociodemographic and health-related characteristics.

Methods: A random cross-sectional sample of n=2006 adults (Calgary, Alberta) completed both a telephone-interview and a self-administered questionnaire. Physical activity-related information, sociodemographic, and health-related characteristics were captured. Usual weekly minutes of neighborhood-based walking, moderate-intensity, and vigorous-intensity physical activity were weighted by their metabolic equivalents and totaled. Objective built environment attributes underwent a two-staged cluster analysis which identified three neighbourhood types (HW: high walkable; MW: medium walkable; LW: low walkable). Generalized Linear Models were used to estimate the differences in total neighborhood-based physical activity (MET.minutes/week) between the neighborhood types within sociodemographic and health-status strata.

Results: With the exception of those ≥61 years of age, overweight, and dog owners, other residents of high walkable neighborhoods participated in higher amounts of physical activity compared with those residing in medium or low walkable neighborhoods after adjusting for covariates (p<.05).

Conclusion: Creating neighbourhoods with a highly connected pedestrian network, a large mix of businesses, high population density, high access to sidewalks/pathways, and many bus stops within walking distance does not appear to lead to subpopulation heterogeneity in physical activity levels and therefore is a potentially effective population health intervention.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate the creation of walkable neighborhoods from a population health intervention perspective Describe the relationship between the built environment and physical activity among adult sub-populations

Keyword(s): Environment, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an Assistant Professor (Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary) and a Senior Research Fellow (School of Population Health, University of Western Australia) My postgraduate/postdoctoral training is in Public/Population Health and Kinesiology and my current research focuses on understanding the relationships between the built environment and physical activity. I am a principal investigator on a CIHR-funded project investigating the causal pathways between the built environment and weight status.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.