Committee Examines How the Built Environment Influences Physical Activity Levels

The Transportation Research Board and the Institute of Medicine formed a 14-member committee to examine the connection between the built environment and the physical activity levels of the U.S. population.

Key Findings

  • Physical activity levels have declined sharply over the past half-century because of reduced physical demands of work, household management and travel together with increased sedentary uses of free time.
  • The built environment can facilitate or constrain physical activity.
  • The relationship between the built environment and physical activity is complex and operates through many mediating factors.
  • The available empirical evidence shows an association between the built environment and physical activity. However, investigators have conducted few studies capable of demonstrating a causal relationship, and evidence supporting such a relationship is currently sparse.
  • Weaknesses of the current literature include the lack of a sound theoretical framework, inadequate research designs and incomplete data.
  • The built environment in place today has been shaped by long-standing polices and the practices of many decision-makers.