Isanti County Active Living

Measuring Change in Perception and Behavior

Isanti County, Minn. received an Active Living by Design (ALbD) grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2003 to encourage increased physical activity for county residents through environmental changes.

Over five years, the project worked with three cities to change policies to require paving of road shoulders, and sidewalks and trails in new developments. The project also enhanced trails, and created biking and walking maps and signs.

The project conducted two surveys, one in 2005 and 2008, to examine the effects of project changes on the physical activity levels of residents and their perceptions about the walkability of their community. The response rate of the random sample survey was 51 percent both years.

Key Findings:

  • More respondents reported moderate intensity physical activity in the 2008 survey (69% versus 63%). No similar changes were found in the state as a whole.
  • The number of respondents who perceived that their neighborhood encouraged physical activity increased between 2005 and 2008—measured by questions on the presence of shopping in walking distance, and sidewalks and bicycle lanes or paths, as well as questions about street traffic and safety.

While the authors acknowledge a causal relationship cannot be established between the project and survey results, they believe that “the ALbD project contributed to the changes in perception and behavior.”

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