Associations of children's perceived neighborhood environments with walking and physical activity

Clare Hume, Jo Salmon, Kylie Ball
American Journal of Health Promotion: AJHP 2007, 21 (3): 201-7

PURPOSE: To examine associations between children's perceptions of the neighborhood environment and walking and physical activity.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of a school-based sample.

SETTING: Elementary schools in Melbourne, Australia.

SUBJECTS: 280 children aged 10 years (response rate 78%).

MEASURES: A self-report survey assessed children's perceptions of the neighborhood physical and social environments and their weekly walking frequency. Physical activity was also objectively measured using accelerometers.

RESULTS: Multiple linear regression analyses showed a positive association between walking frequency and the number of accessible destinations in the neighborhood among boys; having a neighborhood that was easy to walk/cycle around and perceiving lots of graffiti were positively associated with walking frequency among girls. Perceiving lots of litter and rubbish was positively associated with boys' overall physical activity, but no environmental variables were associated with girls' overall physical activity.

CONCLUSION: Several different environmental factors were associated with walking and physical activity. Perceptions of the neighborhood environment were more strongly associated with girls' walking than with objectively-measured physical activity. Future studies should confirm these findings using objective measures and prospective study designs.

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