Objective: Previous studies on the association between physical activity (PA) and neighborhood environments (NE) focused on either objectively measuring the NE or the residents' perception of NE. Here, we investigate which actual or perceived NE is associated with residents' PA in Japan.
Methods: Two regions with an objectively assessed high and low residential density, land use mix-diversity, and street connectivity, respectively, were identified in one city. The subjects were selected using a stratified random sampling method by sex and age in each region. The NE of the subjects was objectively measured using the Geographic Information System (GIS), and the subjects' perception of the NE was assessed using a questionnaire. The daily total number of walking steps was measured with an accelerometer, and walking and cycling time were assessed by a questionnaire.
Results: For the female subjects, the mean cycling time, subjectively assessed as a means of transport, was significantly longer in the group with a high GIS score for the number of land use types, while the score for total number of walking steps was significantly higher among those who were aware of places to walk to, and cycling time for transport was longer for those who perceived an accessibility to post offices, banks/credit unions, gymnasiums/fitness facilities, and amusement facilities in their neighborhood. For the male subjects, the score for walking time for leisure was longer for those who perceived aesthetics and an accessibility to parks, and the score for total walking steps was significantly higher for those who perceived an accessibility to bookstores or rental video stores in their neighborhood.
Conclusions: The results to this study demonstrate that daily PA was high among female subjects living in a NE with land use mix-diversity, and who had an awareness of places to walk to and the accessibility to facilities for daily necessities in their neighborhood. For male subjects, daily PA was high among those who perceived the aesthetics of and accessibility to facilities for pleasure in their neighborhood. Further research is needed to determine the association between PA and NE on the basis of sex differences.