Built Environment Influences of Children's Physical Activity: Examining Differences by Neighbourhood Size and Sex

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jan 15;13(1):130. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13010130.


Neighbourhoods can facilitate or constrain moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among children by providing or restricting opportunities for MVPA. However, there is no consensus on how to define a child's neighbourhood. This study examines the influence of the neighbourhood built environment on objectively measured MVPA among 435 children (aged 9-14 years) in London (ON, Canada). As there is no consensus on how to delineate a child's neighbourhood, a geographic information system was used to generate measures of the neighbourhood built environment at two buffer sizes (500 m and 800 m) around each child's home. Linear regression models with robust standard errors (cluster) were used to analyze the relationship between built environment characteristics and average daily MVPA during non-school hours on weekdays. Sex-stratified models assessed sex-specific relationships. When accounting for individual and neighbourhood socio-demographic variables, park space and multi-use path space were found to influence children's MVPA. Sex-stratified models found significant associations between MVPA and park space, with the 800 m buffer best explaining boys' MVPA and the 500 m buffer best explaining girls' MVPA. Findings emphasize that, when designing built environments, programs, and policies to facilitate physical activity, it is important to consider that the size of the neighbourhood influencing a child's physical activity may differ according to sex.

Keywords: GIS; accelerometer; built environment; child; neighbourhood; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Environment Design*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Environment*