Evaluation Results from an Active Living Intervention in Somerville, Massachusetts

Community-based active living interventions may help residents meet activity guidelines, according to this pre/post-intervention analysis of adults and teens in Somerville, Mass. This study also compares Somerville’s activity levels to those of a nearby equivalent city.

The Active Living by Design (ALbD) initiative funded 25 community partnerships across the U.S. from 2003-2008; these partnerships were charged with using five “community action” strategies to change environments and policies to make it easier for people to lead active daily lives. Somerville, Mass. received an ALbD grant. The separately-funded study at hand compares activity among Somerville adults and teens pre and post-ALbD intervention. It also compares activity levels of Somerville adults and teens with those of their peers in the comparable nearby city of Everett, Mass. Data was self-reported on surveys administered in both Everett and Somerville pre- and post- Somerville’s ALbD interventions.

Key Findings:

  • All Somerville age groups—middle school, high school, and adults—reported an increase in meeting physical activity guidelines post-ALbD, but the increases were significant among high schoolers (1.6 times more likely) and adults (2.36 times more likely); this pattern held for all subgroups except Black adults.
  • There were no differences between the physical activity levels of Somerville and Everett teens at follow-up, but Somerville adults were 1.10 times more likely to meet the guidelines than their Everett peers.
  • Use of recreational spaces is associated with increased physical activity in both cities among all age groups, but indoor facilities use is highly associated with physical activity. Indoor facilities usage remained constant among all Somerville age groups but fell off sharply among Everett adults.

This study adds to the evidence that community-wide active living initiatives can increase physical activity, and points to future directions in related research.