Geographical influences upon physical activity participation: evidence of a 'coastal effect'

Aust N Z J Public Health. 1999 Jun;23(3):322-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.1999.tb01265.x.


Objective: To examine the association between geographical proximity to the coast and physical activity participation levels.

Method: Using stratified random sampling, a telephone survey was carried out in 1994 with 1,000 adults in each of the 16 health service regions in New South Wales (N = 16,178). Physical activity levels were measured through self-report of the frequency and duration of walking, moderate and vigorous activities in the two weeks preceding the survey. Logistic regression modelling was carried out to examine the association between physical activity and 'coastal' location of residence, adjusting for age, sex, employment status, education level and country of birth.

Results: After adjusting for other demographic factors, respondents who lived in a coastal postcode were 23% less likely to be classified as sedentary, 27% more likely to report levels of activity considered adequate for health, and 38% more likely to report high (vigorous) levels of physical activity than those who lived inland. Each of these associations was significant at the 0.05 level.

Conclusions: Characteristics of the physical environment in coastal postcodes are related to physical activity participation.

Implications: Physical environments may contribute to physical activity participation. Further efforts to conceptualise and measure these environmental influences is warranted. Public health efforts to promote physical activity should consider aspects of the physical environment as part of any intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Environment*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires