JOURNAL ARTICLE

The proportion of youths' physical inactivity attributable to neighbourhood built environment features

Rachel E Laxer, Ian Janssen
International Journal of Health Geographics 2013, 12: 31
23777593

OBJECTIVE: We investigated the independent association between several neighbourhood built environment features and physical inactivity within a national sample of Canadian youth, and estimated the proportion of inactivity within the population that was attributable to these built environment features.

METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study of 6626 youth aged 11-15 years from 272 schools across Canada. Participants resided within 1 km of their school. Walkability, outdoor play areas (parks, wooded areas, yards at home, cul-de-sacs on roads), recreation facilities, and aesthetics were measured objectively within each school neighbourhood using geographic information systems. Physical inactivity (<5 days/week of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity) was assessed by questionnaire. Multilevel logistic regression analyses, which controlled for several covariates, examined relationships between built environment features and physical inactivity.

RESULTS: The final regression model indicated that, by comparison to youth living in the least walkable neighbourhoods, the risks for physical inactivity were 28-44% higher for youth living in neighbourhoods in the remaining three walkability quartiles. By comparison to youth living in neighbourhoods with the highest density of cul-de-sacs, risks for physical inactivity were 28-32% higher for youth living in neighbourhoods in the lowest two quartiles. By comparison to youth living in neighbourhoods with the least amount of park space, risks for physical inactivity were 28-37% higher for youth living in the neighbourhoods with a moderate to high (quartiles 2 and 3) park space. Population attributable risk estimates suggested that 23% of physical inactivity within the population was attributable to living in walkable neighbourhoods, 16% was attributable to living in neighbourhoods with a low density of cul-de-sacs, and 15% was attributable to living in neighbourhoods with a moderate to high amount of park space.

CONCLUSIONS: Of the neighbourhood built environment exposure variables measured in this study, the three that were the most highly associated with inactivity were walkability, the density of cul-de-sacs, and park space. The association between some of these features and youths' activity levels were in the opposite direction to what has previously been reported in adults and younger children.

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