Objective: The main study objective was to examine the moderating effects of perceived enjoyment, barriers/benefits, perceived social support and self-efficacy, on the associations of perceived environmental attributes with walking for recreation and leisure-time moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and whether these potential moderating effects differed by gender and study site.
Methods: Data from three observational studies in the United States (Seattle and Baltimore), Australia (Adelaide), and Belgium (Ghent) were pooled. In total, 6014 adults (20-65 years, 55.7% women) were recruited in high-/low-walkable and high-/low-income neighborhoods. All participants completed the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale, a validated questionnaire on psychosocial attributes, and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. General additive mixed models were conducted in R.
Results: Enjoyment of physical activity, perceived barriers to physical activity, perceived benefits of physical activity, social support from family and friends, and self-efficacy for physical activity moderated the relationships of specific perceived environmental characteristics with walking for recreation and/or leisure-time moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Overall, moderating effects were in the same direction: environmental perceptions were positively associated with leisure-time activity, but associations were strongest in adults with less positive scores on psychosocial attributes. The findings were fairly consistent across gender and study sites.
Conclusions: The present study findings are promising, as it seems that those who might benefit most from environmental interventions to promote physical activity, may mainly be adults at risk of being insufficiently active or those difficult to reach through individual health promotion programs.