Background: Exercise facilities may have the potential to promote physical activity among residents, and to support an active lifestyle throughout the year. We investigated the association between objectively assessed availability of exercise facilities and objectively assessed physical activity outcomes, and whether time of year had a modifying effect on these associations.
Methods: A total of 2,037 adults (55% females) wore an accelerometer for seven days. Time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity (minutes per day) and meeting the physical activity recommendations (yes/no) were used as outcome variables. Availability of exercise facilities was measured within 1,000-meter line-based road network buffers around participants' residential addresses using Geographic Information Systems. Socio-demographic variables and time of year were included as covariates in the analyses.
Results: Participants with ≥4 exercise facilities within their buffer zones spent 5.4 (confidence interval (CI) = 2.3-8.5) more minutes in moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, and had 69% higher odds (OR = 1.69; CI = 1.39-2.05) of meeting the physical activity recommendations, compared to those with no exercise facilities within their buffer zones. Time of year had no modifying effect on these associations.
Conclusions: Our results show that objective availability of exercise facilities was associated with accelerometer-assessed time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity and the odds of meeting the recommended levels of physical activity. Neighborhoods may be a logical and potentially significant venue for policy interventions aimed at increasing physical activity in the overall population.