Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 8, pp 1893–1912 | Cite as

Understanding Physical Activity through Interactions Between the Built Environment and Social Cognition: A Systematic Review

  • Ryan E. RhodesEmail author
  • Brian E. Saelens
  • Claire Sauvage-Mar
Systematic Review



Few people in most developed nations engage in regular physical activity (PA), despite its well-established health benefits. Socioecological models highlight the potential interaction of multiple factors from policy and the built environment to individual social cognition in explaining PA.


The purpose of this review was to appraise this interaction tenet of the socioecological model between the built environment and social cognition to predict PA.


Eligible studies had to have been published in peer-reviewed journals in the English language, and included any tests of interaction between social cognition and the built environment with PA. Literature searches, concluded in October 2017, used five common databases. Findings were grouped by type of PA outcomes (leisure, transportation, total PA and total moderate–vigorous PA [MVPA]), then grouped by the type of interactions between social cognitive and built environment constructs.


The initial search yielded 308 hits, which was reduced to 22 independent studies of primarily high- to medium-quality after screening for eligibility criteria. The interaction tenet of the socioecological model was not supported for overall MVPA and total PA. By contrast, while there was heterogeneity of findings for leisure-time PA, environmental accessibility/convenience interacted with intention, and environmental aesthetics interacted with affective judgments, to predict leisure-time PA. Interactions between the built environment and social cognition in PA for transport are limited, with current results failing to support an effect.


The results provide some support for interactive aspects of the built environment and social cognition in leisure-time PA, and thus highlight potential areas for integrated intervention of individual and environmental change.



Ryan Rhodes is supported by funds from the Canadian Cancer Society, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Ryan Rhodes, Brian Saelens and Claire Sauvage-Mar declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)
40279_2018_934_MOESM2_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 19 kb)
40279_2018_934_MOESM3_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 21 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan E. Rhodes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian E. Saelens
    • 2
    • 3
  • Claire Sauvage-Mar
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioral Medicine Laboratory, School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health EducationUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Center for Child Health Behavior and DevelopmentSeattleUSA
  3. 3.School of MedicineUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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