Purpose: To examine whether residing in a community designed to promote physical activity moderates the relationship between parent perceptions of the neighborhood and general physical activity or active commuting to school in their children.
Setting: San Bernardino County, California.
Subjects: Three hundred sixty-five families (one parent and one child in grades four through eight). Eighty-five reside in a smart growth community designed to be more conducive to physical activity.
Measures: Parent perceptions assessed using the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale (NEWS). General child physical activity was measured using accelerometers, and active commuting was self-reported by children.
Analysis: Two sets of regressions were performed: one for general physical activity, and one for active commuting. Separate models were run in the two sets for each of the 14 NEWS factors, while controlling for demographics.
Results: For general physical activity, walking infrastructure, lack of cul-de-sacs, and social interaction had significant main effect associations (p ≤ .05). No factors were moderated by community. The relationships between active commuting to school and perceived crime, traffic hazards, hilliness, physical barriers, cul-de-sac connectivity, aesthetics, and walking infrastructure were significant for those in the smart growth community only (p ≤ .05).
Conclusions: Living in an activity-friendly environment is associated with positive relationships between parent perceptions and active commuting behaviors in children. Future interventions should account for both the perceived neighborhood environment and available physical activity infrastructure.