Background: Leisure-time physical activity patterns are low and socially patterned. Ecologic studies of the provision of exercise facilities indicate that in areas of deprivation, there is a trend toward reduced availability of exercise facilities compared with more affluent areas. Existing studies are restricted to single geographic areas or regions. In this study, national-level data were used to examine the relationship between neighborhood deprivation and the density of physical activity facilities in England.
Methods: A database of all indoor exercise facilities in England was obtained, and facilities were linked to administrative areas and assigned a deprivation score. Census data were used to calculate the density of physical activity facilities per 1000 people per quintile of deprivation. The exercise facilities data were collected in 2005, and the analysis was conducted in 2006.
Results: When all 5552 facilities were considered, there was a statistically significant negative relationship (p<0.001) between area deprivation score and the density of physical activity facilities. A similar relationship was observed when public and private facilities were examined separately. When only swimming pools were examined, a negative association was observed for public pools (p<0.0001) but not those that were private (p=0.50), which were more evenly distributed among quintiles of area deprivation.
Conclusions: The availability of physical activity facilities declines with level of deprivation. Areas in most need of facilities to assist people live physically active lifestyles have fewer resources.