Neighborhood Design and Perceptions: Relationship with Active Commuting

VOORHEES, CAROLYN C.1; ASHWOOD, SCOTT2; EVENSON, KELLY R.3; SIRARD, JOHN R.4; RUNG, ARIANE L.5; DOWDA, MARSHA6; MCKENZIE, THOMAS L.7

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 7 - pp 1253-1260
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181cd5dfd
BASIC SCIENCES: Contrasting Perspectives

Purpose: Walking to and from school contributes to total physical activity levels. This study investigated whether perceived and actual neighborhood features were associated with walking to or from school among adolescent girls.

Methods: A sample of geographically diverse eighth-grade girls (N = 890) from the Trial of Activity in Adolescent Girls (TAAG) study living within 1.5 miles of their middle school was recruited. Participants completed a self-administered survey on their neighborhood and walking behavior. Geographic information system data were used to assess objective neighborhood features. Nested multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine the contribution of perceived and objective measures of walking to or from school.

Results: Fifty-six percent (n = 500) of the girls walked to or from school for at least 1 d in a week. White (42%) girls walked more frequently than Hispanic (25%) and African American (21%) girls. Girls were nearly twice as likely to walk to or from school if they perceived their neighborhoods as safe and perceived that they had places they liked to walk, controlling for other potential confounders. In addition, girls who lived closer to school, had more active destinations in their neighborhood, and had smaller-sized blocks were more likely to walk to or from school than those who did not.

Conclusions: Safety, land use, and school location issues need to be considered together when designing interventions to increase walking to and from school.

1Department of Public and Community Health, University of Maryland School of Public Health, College Park, MD; 2Rand Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA; 3Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC; 4Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN; 5Epidemiology Program, Louisiana State University School of Public Health, New Orleans, LA; 6Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; and 7School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Address for correspondence: Carolyn C. Voorhees, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Public Health, 2387 Valley Dr, Rm 2358, College Park, MD 20742-2611; E-mail: ccv@umd.edu.

Submitted for publication July 2009.

Accepted for publication November 2009.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine