Prospective study of urban form and physical activity in the Black Women's Health Study

Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Nov 1;170(9):1105-17. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp264. Epub 2009 Oct 6.


The authors used data from the Black Women's Health Study to assess the association between neighborhood urban form and physical activity. Women reported hours/week of utilitarian and exercise walking and of vigorous activity in 1995 and on biennial follow-up questionnaires through 2001. Housing density, road networks, availability of public transit, sidewalks, and parks were characterized for the residential neighborhoods of 20,354 Black Women's Health Study participants living in New York, New York; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California. The authors quantified the associations between features of the environment and physical activity using odds ratios for >or=5 relative to <5 hours/week of physical activity. For all women, housing density had the strongest association with utilitarian walking (odds ratio for the most- compared with the least-dense quintile = 2.72, 95% confidence interval: 2.22, 3.31), followed by availability of public transit. Women who moved during follow-up to neighborhoods of lower density were 36% more likely to decrease their levels of utilitarian walking, and those who moved to neighborhoods of higher density were 23% more likely to increase their levels of utilitarian walking, relative to women who moved to neighborhoods of similar density. These data suggest that increases in housing density may lead to increases in utilitarian walking among African-American women.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans*
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Environment
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Small-Area Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Transportation / statistics & numerical data
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health / ethnology