Resources for physical activity participation: does availability and accessibility differ by neighborhood socioeconomic status?

Ann Behav Med. 2003 Spring;25(2):100-4. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2502_05.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether the availability and accessibility of physical activity resources differed by neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) in a small U.S. city (population = 133,046). U.S. census tracts (N =32) were used to represent neighborhoods and categorized into high, medium, or low SES on the basis of the percentage of unemployed individuals, per capita income, and percentage of the population below the poverty threshold. We developed a geographic information system to generate a comprehensive list of physical activity resources available within each census tract in the city. We identified 112 parks, 33 sport facilities, 15 fitness clubs, 11 community centers, and 5 walking/biking trails. The total number of physical activity resources varied by neighborhood SES (p <.05); low-SES (M =4.5-/+2.3) and medium-SES (M =4.9-/+2.6) neighborhoods had significantly fewer resources than high-SES (M =8.4-/+3.5) neighborhoods. Low-, medium-, and high-SES neighborhoods did not differ on the number of pay-for-use facilities; however, low-SES (M =3.1-/+1.5) and medium-SES (M =3.8-/+1.6) neighborhoods had significantly fewer free-for-use resources than high- (M =6.1-/+2.4) SES neighborhoods (p <.01). Data suggest that individuals from lower SES neighborhoods may have limited ability to control their physical activity in the face of inaccessible environments. Community research and promotion efforts should include assessment and targeting of available and accessible physical activity resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States