Introduction: Impact of neighbourhood on physical activity (PA) is under-investigated in European adolescents, and few studies have used objective data on both exposures and outcomes. Therefore we investigated the association between objectively measured neighbourhood characteristics and PA in 15-year-old German adolescents.
Methods: Study populations comprised of 688 adolescents residing in the urban Munich area and 504 from the rural Wesel area from the GINIplus and LISAplus birth cohorts. Neighbourhood was defined as a circular 500-m buffer around the residence. Greenness was calculated 1) as the mean Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), and 2) as percent tree cover. Neighbourhood green spaces and sport and leisure facilities were defined as present or absent in a neighbourhood (data only available for Munich). Data on PA were collected from one-week triaxial accelerometry (hip-worn ActiGraph GT3X). Minutes of PA were classified into moderate-to-vigorous (MVPA), light and sedentary using Romanzini's et al. triaxial cutoffs, and averaged over the recording period. Activity diaries were used for differentiation between school and leisure (total minus school) PA. Area-specific associations were assessed by adjusted negative binomial regressions.
Results: In the Wesel area, residing in a neighbourhood with higher NDVI was associated with 9% more leisure MVPA among females and with 8% more leisure MVPA in rural dwellers. In the Munich area, residing in a neighbourhood with sport facilities was associated with 9% more leisure MVPA. The latter association was only significant in urban dwellers while neighbourhood leisure facilities increased MVPA in rural dwellers. Estimates were very similar when total MVPA was considered rather than solely leisure.
Conclusion: There is indication that neighbourhood features could be associated with MVPA in German adolescents. However, different features seem to be important across sexes and in rural/urban settings, which need to be specifically addressed in future studies.
Keywords: Accelerometry; Built environment; Green spaces; Greenness; Sport facilities.
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