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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Neighborhood walkability, physical activity, and walking behavior: the Swedish Neighborhood and Physical Activity (SNAP) study

Kristina Sundquist, Ulf Eriksson, Naomi Kawakami, Lars Skog, Henrik Ohlsson, Daniel Arvidsson
Social Science & Medicine 2011, 72 (8): 1266-73
21470735
More knowledge concerning the association between physical activity and objectively measured attributes of the built environment is needed. Previous studies on the association between objectively measured neighborhood walkability, physical activity, and walking have been conducted in the U.S. or Australia and research findings are available from only one country in Europe - Belgium. The first aim of this Swedish study of 2269 adults was to examine the associations between neighborhood walkability and walking for active transportation or leisure, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and whether these hypothesized associations are moderated by age, gender, income, marital status and neighborhood-level socioeconomic status. The second aim was to determine how much of the total variance of the walking and physical activity outcomes can be attributed to neighborhood-level differences. Neighborhood walkability was objectively measured by GIS methods. An index consisting of residential density, street connectivity, and land use mix was constructed to define 32 highly and less walkable neighborhoods in Stockholm City. MVPA was measured objectively during 7 days with an accelerometer and walking was assessed using the validated International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Multilevel linear as well as logistic models (mixed-effects, mixed-distribution models) were used in the analysis. The statistically significant and "adjusted" results for individuals living in highly walkable neighborhoods, as compared to those living in less walkable neighborhoods, were: (1) 77% and 28% higher odds for walking for active transportation and walking for leisure, respectively, (2) 50 min more walking for active transportation/week, and (3) 3.1 min more MVPA/day. The proportion of the total variance at the neighborhood level was low and ranged between 0.0% and 2.1% in the adjusted models. The findings of the present study stress that future policies concerning the built environment must be based on context-specific evidence, particularly in the light of the fact that neighborhood redevelopments are time-consuming and expensive.

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