Neighborhood built environment and transport and leisure physical activity: findings using objective exposure and outcome measures in New Zealand

Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jul;120(7):971-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104584. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Background: Evidence of associations between neighborhood built environments and transport-related physical activity (PA) is accumulating, but few studies have investigated associations with leisure-time PA.

Objective: We investigated associations of five objectively measured characteristics of the neighborhood built environment-destination access, street connectivity, dwelling density, land-use mix and streetscape quality-with residents' self-reported PA (transport, leisure, and walking) and accelerometer-derived measures of PA.

Methods: Using a multicity stratified cluster sampling design, we conducted a cross-sectional survey of 2,033 adults who lived in 48 New Zealand neighborhoods. Multilevel regression modeling, which was adjusted for individual-level (sociodemographic and neighborhood preference) and neighborhood-level (deprivation) confounders, was used to estimate associations of built environment with PA.

Results: We found that 1-SD increases in destination access, street connectivity, and dwelling density were associated with any versus no self-reported transport, leisure, or walking PA, with increased odds ranging from 21% [street connectivity with leisure PA, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0%, 47%] to 44% (destination accessibility with walking, 95% CI: 17%, 79%). Among participants who self-reported some PA, a 1-SD increase in street connectivity was associated with a 13% increase in leisure PA (95% CI: 0, 28%). SD increases in destination access, street connectivity, and dwelling density were each associated with 7% increases in accelerometer counts.

Conclusions: Associations of neighborhood destination access, street connectivity, and dwelling density with self-reported and objectively measured PA were moderately strong, indicating the potential to increase PA through changes in neighborhood characteristics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment Design
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Young Adult