The association between community physical activity settings and youth physical activity, obesity, and body mass index

J Adolesc Health. 2010 Nov;47(5):496-503. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.03.017. Epub 2010 May 26.


Background: This study examined the association between the level of physical activity (PA) friendliness of the built environment and adolescent PA and body mass index using a national sample of youth and data collected from the communities where they reside.

Methods: Data on height, weight, and PA were taken from annual nationally representative cross-sectional Monitoring the Future surveys of 8th and 10th graders in schools, from 2001 through 2003. Measures of safety, outdoor and commercial PA settings, and urban sprawl were constructed using data collected from the communities in which the students reside. Multilevel models were run and controlled for youth and community demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

Results: Increased levels of physical disorder were associated with decreased PA and higher weight. A greater number of commercial PA facilities was associated with increased PA. More compact communities were associated with lower weight and less sports participation.

Conclusions: It is important to explore these associations to help guide future development patterns and land use policies to create more active neighborhoods.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Obesity*
  • Pennsylvania