Context: Research examining the association between environmental attributes and physical activity among youth is growing. An updated review of literature is needed to summarize the current evidence base, and to inform policies and environmental interventions to promote active lifestyles among young people.
Evidence acquisition: A literature search was conducted using the Active Living Research (ALR) literature database, an online database that codes study characteristics and results of published papers on built/social environment and physical activity/obesity/sedentary behavior. Papers in the ALR database were identified through PubMed, Web of Science, and SPORTDiscus using systematically developed and expert-validated search protocols. For the current review, additional inclusion criteria were used to select observational, quantitative studies among youth aged 3-18 years.
Evidence synthesis: Papers were categorized by design features, sample characteristics, and measurement mode. Relevant results were summarized, stratified by age (children or adolescents) and mode of measurement (objective or perceived) for environmental attributes and physical activity. Percentage of significant results was calculated.
Conclusions: Mode of measurement greatly influenced the consistency of associations between environmental attributes and youth physical activity. For both children and adolescents, the most consistent associations involved objectively measured environmental attributes and reported physical activity. The most supported correlates for children were walkability, traffic speed/volume, access/proximity to recreation facilities, land-use mix, and residential density. The most supported correlates for adolescents were land-use mix and residential density. These findings support several recommendations for policy and environmental change from such groups as the IOM and National Physical Activity Plan.
Copyright © 2011 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.