An update of recent evidence of the relationship between objective and self-report measures of the physical environment and physical activity behaviours

J Sci Med Sport. 2004 Apr;7(1 Suppl):81-92. doi: 10.1016/s1440-2440(04)80282-2.


The physical environment has the potential to influence the physical behaviours of large numbers of people; hence creating supportive environments has the potential to increase physical activity (PA). During the last decade, there has been growing interest in how the physical environment shapes PA behaviour. This area of research is important given that levels of PA participation are declining globally. Literature was reviewed that examined the association between physical environmental attributes and PA behaviours. The environmental attributes were grouped into four categories based on a conceptual framework of environmental factors that might influence PA and included functionality, safety, aesthetics and destinations. Positive associations were found between both perceived and objectively measured environmental factors and PA behaviour. The availability, accessibility and convenience of destinations and facilities, as well as the general functionality of the neighbourhood (eg, the presence of sidewalks, traffic conditions) and aesthetics were positively associated with various levels of PA. The review highlights the need for future studies: to examine behaviour-specific environmental attributes, to collect objectively-measured environmental data and to include both objective and perceived environmental data in the same studies, and to adopt prospective study designs to allow causal relationships to be established.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment Design
  • Environment*
  • Esthetics
  • Exercise
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Safety
  • Walking