Neighborhood SES and walkability are related to physical activity behavior in Belgian adults

Prev Med. 2010 Jan:50 Suppl 1:S74-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2009.07.027. Epub 2009 Sep 12.


Objective: To investigate whether neighborhood walkability (higher residential density, land use mix, street connectivity) is positively associated with physical activity in Belgian adults and whether this association is moderated by neighborhood SES.

Methods: The Belgian Environmental Physical Activity Study (BEPAS) was conducted in Ghent, Belgium. Data were collected between May 2007 and September 2008. Twenty-four neighborhoods were selected, stratified on GIS-based walkability and neighborhood SES. In total, 1200 adults (aged 20-65 years; 50 per neighborhood) completed the International Physical Activity Questionnaire and wore an accelerometer for seven days. After omitting participants with missing accelerometer data, the final sample consisted of 1166 adults.

Results: Living in a high-walkable neighborhood was associated with more accelerometer-based minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (38.6 vs. 31.8 min/day, p<0.001), transportational walking and cycling, recreational walking, and less motorized transport (all p<0.05). Low neighborhood SES was related to more cycling for transport and less motorized transport (all p<0.05). No interactions between walkability and neighborhood SES were found.

Conclusions: The BEPAS results generally confirmed the findings from Australia and the US showing that, in Europe, walkability is also positively related to physical activity. As neighborhood SES was not a significant moderator, walkability appears beneficial for all economic strata.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Belgium
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Motor Activity*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Class*
  • Social Environment*
  • Walking*