Objective: This study is to examine changes in residents' physical activities, social interactions, and neighborhood cohesion after they moved to a walkable community in Austin, Texas.
Methods: Retrospective surveys (N=449) were administered in 2013-2014 to collect pre- and post-move data about the outcome variables and relevant personal, social, and physical environmental factors. Walkability of each resident's pre-move community was measured using the Walk Score. T tests were used to examine the pre-post move differences in the outcomes in the whole sample and across sub-groups with different physical activity levels, neighborhood conditions, and neighborhood preferences before the move.
Results: After the move, total physical activity increased significantly in the whole sample and all sub-groups except those who were previously sufficiently active; lived in communities with high walkability, social interactions, or neighborhood cohesion; or had moderate preference for walkable neighborhoods. Walking in the community increased in the whole sample and all subgroups except those who were previously sufficiently active, moved from high-walkability communities, or had little to no preference for walkable neighborhoods. Social interactions and neighborhood cohesion increased significantly after the move in the whole sample and all sub-groups.
Conclusion: This study explored potential health benefits of a walkable community in promoting physically and socially active lifestyles, especially for populations at higher risk of obesity. The initial result is promising, suggesting the need for more work to further examine the relationships between health and community design using pre-post assessments.
Keywords: Community; Environment; Neighborhood; Physical activity; Self-selection; Social interaction; Walkability.
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