Measuring the Built Environment for Physical Activity

State of the Science

This article reviews three approaches used to assess the built environment. Since the built environment has important ties to physical activity, better understanding of the built environment is important in the fight against obesity.
 
The authors identify three categories of data on the built environment:

  • Perceived measures drawn from surveys and questionnaires;
  • Observational measures created from audits; and
  • Data set measures determined using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The review includes 20 surveys and questionnaires, 20 audit tools, and more than 50 studies that produced GIS measures.

Key Findings:

  • Built environment measures have progressed throughout the past decade.
  • Most measures are first-generation and further development of measures will be needed.

Further research should address quality of measures, the links between measurement and various population groups, and the role of this research in informing public health.