Environmental factors associated with adults' participation in physical activity: a review

Am J Prev Med. 2002 Apr;22(3):188-99. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(01)00426-3.


Background: Promoting physical activity is a public health priority, and changes in the environmental contexts of adults' activity choices are believed to be crucial. However, of the factors associated with physical activity, environmental influences are among the least understood.

Method: Using journal scans and computerized literature database searches, we identified 19 quantitative studies that assessed the relationships with physical activity behavior of perceived and objectively determined physical environment attributes. Findings were categorized into those examining five categories: accessibility of facilities, opportunities for activity, weather, safety, and aesthetic attributes.

Results: Accessibility, opportunities, and aesthetic attributes had significant associations with physical activity. Weather and safety showed less-strong relationships. Where studies pooled different categories to create composite variables, the associations were less likely to be statistically significant.

Conclusions: Physical environment factors have consistent associations with physical activity behavior. Further development of ecologic and environmental models, together with behavior-specific and context-specific measurement strategies, should help in further understanding of these associations. Prospective studies are required to identify possible causal relationships.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Causality
  • Community Participation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Patient Participation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Safety / standards
  • Weather