Personal and environmental correlates of active travel and physical activity in a deprived urban population

David Ogilvie, Richard Mitchell, Nanette Mutrie, Mark Petticrew, Stephen Platt
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008 August 27, 5: 43

BACKGROUND: Environmental characteristics may be associated with patterns of physical activity in general or with particular types of physical activity such as active travel (walking or cycling for transport). However, most studies in this field have been conducted in North America and Australia, and hypotheses about putative correlates should be tested in a wider range of sociospatial contexts. We therefore examined the contribution of putative personal and environmental correlates of active travel and overall physical activity in deprived urban neighbourhoods in Glasgow, Scotland as part of the baseline for a longitudinal study of the effects of opening a new urban motorway (freeway).

METHODS: We conducted a postal survey of a random sample of residents (n = 1322), collecting data on socioeconomic status, perceptions of the local environment, travel behaviour, physical activity and general health and wellbeing using a new 14-item neighbourhood rating scale, a travel diary, the short form of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and the SF-8. We analysed the correlates of active travel and overall physical activity using multivariate logistic regression, first building models using personal (individual and household) explanatory variables and then adding environmental variables.

RESULTS: Active travel was associated with being younger, living in owner-occupied accommodation, not having to travel a long distance to work and not having access to a car, whereas overall physical activity was associated with living in social rented accommodation and not being overweight. After adjusting for personal characteristics, neither perceptions of the local environment nor the objective proximity of respondents' homes to motorway or major road infrastructure explained much of the variance in active travel or overall physical activity, although we did identify a significant positive association between active travel and perceived proximity to shops.

CONCLUSION: Apart from access to local amenities, environmental characteristics may have limited influence on active travel in deprived urban populations characterised by a low level of car ownership, in which people may have less capacity for making discretionary travel choices than the populations studied in most published research on the environmental correlates of physical activity.

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