Background: Increasing adults’ physical activity through environmental initiatives that promote walking as a public health priority. To this end, evidence relevant to the urban planning and transport sectors is required. This review synthesized findings on destination and route attributes associated with utilitarian and recreational walking.
Methods: A literature search was conducted in April 2011 using Web of Science, PubMed, Transport Research Information Services, GEOBASE, and SPORTDiscus. Environmental attributes were classified into the domains of utilitarian and recreational destinations (presence, proximity, quality) and route (sidewalks, connectivity, aesthetics, traffic, safety). Forty-six studies examining associations of these attributes with utilitarian and/or recreational walking were identified. Specific destination and route attributes associated with each type of walking were summarized.
Results: Adults’ utilitarian walking was consistently associated with presence and proximity of retail and service destinations (in 80% of the studies reviewed). It was also associated with functional aspects of routes (sidewalks and street connectivity) in 50% of studies. Recreational walking was associated with presence, proximity, and quality of recreational destinations (35% of studies) and route aesthetic (35% of studies). Both types of walking were found unrelated to route safety and traffic in most studies.
Conclusions: There is consistent evidence that better access to relevant neighborhood destinations (e.g., local stores, services, transit stops) can be conducive to adults’ utilitarian walking. Some evidence also suggests that availability of sidewalks and well-connected streets can facilitate utilitarian walking. To better inform initiatives to promote adults’ walking in the planning and transport sectors, future studies need to examine how accessible such destinations should be, as well as the effect of the quality of recreational destinations.