, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 60-67

Changes in neighborhood walking are related to changes in perceptions of environmental attributes

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Background: Several studies have found significant crosssectional associations of perceived environmental attributes with physical activity behaviors. Prospective relations with environmental factors have been examined for vigorous activity, but not for the moderate-intensity activities that environmental and policy initiatives are being designed to influence.Purpose: To examine prospective associations of changes in perceptions of local environmental attributes with changes in neighborhood walking.Methods: Baseline and 10-week follow-up telephone interviews with 512 adults (49% men).Results: Men who reported positive changes in aesthetics and convenience were twice as likely to increase their walking. Women who reported positive changes in convenience were more than twice as likely to have increased their walking. There were contrasting findings for men and women who reported traffic as less of a problem: Men were 61% less likely to have increased walking; however, women were 76% more likely to have done so.Conclusions: Further studies are needed to determine the possibly causal nature of such environment-behavior relations and to elucidate relevant gender differences. Such evidence will provide underpinnings for public health initiatives to increase participation in physical activity.

This study was supported by a Research Project Grant from the Heart Foundation of Australia. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Cate Owen from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Census Technical Helpline, with identifying postal codes that intersected the coastline, and the Illawarra Regional Information Service for conducting the telephone survey. Nancy Humpel is now with the Health and Productivity Research Centre, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, University of Wollongong.