Neighborhood Environment and Physical Activity Among Youth

A Review

This updated literature review examines the association between environmental attributes and physical activity among youth.

Articles included in the literature search came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living Research online literature database. This database features papers that study the relationship of environment and policy with physical activity and obesity. The purpose of the searchable database is to make detailed information on study characteristics and results accessible to all, and to provide resources for research and policy debates.

The review examined study design, study region, total sample size, sample age, year of publication, and measures of the environment and physical activity. A total of 103 papers were reviewed that included with 1,721 results.

Key Findings:

  • The mode of measurement influenced observed association between neighborhood environment and youth physical activity.
  • The most supported correlates for adolescents were land-use mix and residential density.
  • The most supported correlates for children were traffic speed/volume, access/proximity to recreation facilities, mixed-land use, residential density and walkability.

Overall, this literature review’s findings support recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the U.S. Surgeon General and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Prevention.