Neighborhood Environments and Physical Activity Among Adults in 11 Countries

Analysis of a major international study indicated strong correlations between neighborhood characteristics that encourage physical activity and increased activity among residents. The study identified specific neighborhood attributes associated with increased physical activity and is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living Research program.

Researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from the International Physical Activity Prevalence Study (IPS). IPS collected nationally representative estimates of physical activity levels and related environmental characteristics for 11 countries. The three basic components of IPS were: 1) a survey that accounted for neighborhood characteristics associated with physical activity (e.g., sidewalks and bicycle facilities); 2) a neighborhood environment index that measured the number of activity-friendly neighborhood attributes; and 3) an interviewer-conducted questionnaire, the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), that assessed whether participants met guidelines for physical activity.

Key Findings:

  • Having sidewalks on most streets had the greatest positive association with physical activity.
  • Physical activity levels were strongly associated with five of seven environmental characteristics.
  • The number of physical activity supportive attributes was positively related to meeting physical activity guidelines.

This study identified neighborhood characteristics associated with increased physical activity among residents of 11 countries. The results indicate that designing neighborhoods to support physical activity is an international public health issue.