Out and About

Association of the Built Environment with Physical Activity Behaviors of Adolescent Females

Only 12 percent of U.S. adolescents get the recommended amount of moderate physical activity each day—60 minutes. Modifying the built environment where children live, play, and attend school may increase physical activity levels.

This study looked at the association between the outdoor built environment and moderate-to-vigorous-physical activity (MVPA) in girls. (Adolescent females are known to be less physically active than their male counterparts.) The researchers hypothesized that the presence of parks, physical activity facilities, and higher population density would be positively associated with higher physical activity levels.

Study participants were teenage girls in San Diego and Minneapolis who had previously been part of the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls. Activity levels were measured over six days using global positioning systems (GPS) and accelerometers.

Key Findings:

  • MVPA was more likely to occur in areas of higher density, with schools present, and in, Minneapolis, with parks.
  • The San Diego girls had access to parks but they were further away than those for the Minneapolis girls.
  • Lower MVPA occurred on weekends, where there were longer road length or food outlets nearby.

Understanding where physical activity does and does not occur can inform policies that encourage physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviors.

This article was not funded directly by RWJF, but is being provided as an additional resource from this special issue of Health & Place.