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Association of objectively measured and perceived environment with accelerometer-based physical activity and cycling: a Swiss population-based cross-sectional study of children

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International Journal of Public Health



We tested whether objectively assessed neighbourhood characteristics are associated with moderate-to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and cycling in Swiss children and adolescents and assessed the mediating role of the perception of the environment.


The cross-sectional analyses were based on data of 1306 participants aged 6–16 years of the population-based SOPHYA study. MVPA was measured by accelerometry, time spent cycling and the perceived environment by questionnaire. Objective environmental parameters at the residential address were GIS derived. In all analyses, personal, social and environmental factors were considered.


MVPA showed significant positive associations with perceived personal safety and perceived access to green spaces but not with respective objective parameters. Objectively assessed main street density and shorter distance to the next public transport were associated with less cycling in adolescents. Parents’ perceptions did not mediate the observed associations of the objectively assessed environment with MVPA and cycling.


Associations between the environment and physical activity differ by domain. In spatial planning efforts to improve objective environments should be complemented with efforts to increase parental sense of security.

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We thank the SOPHYA Study Group for their support, Markus Lamprecht for the collaboration, the fieldworkers for the data collection and all the children, adolescents and parents for participating in the SOPHYA study. The SOPHYA Study Group: Nadja Mahler (FOSPO), Urs Mäder (FOSPO), Thomas Wyss (FOSPO), Nadine Stoffel-Kurth (FOPH), Kathrin Favero (FOPH), Andrea Poffet (FOPH), Jvo Schneider (Health Promotion Switzerland), Lisa Guggenbühl (Health Promotion Switzerland) Charlotte Braun-Fahrländer (Swiss TPH), Simone Isler (Swiss TPH)


This study was funded by the Federal Office of Sport FOSPO (Grant No. 13-06), the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH (Grant No. 13.005223) and Health Promotion Switzerland (Grant No. 13.099).

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Correspondence to Bettina Bringolf-Isler.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all parents of participants included in the study. In addition also adolescents filled in a consent form.

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Bringolf-Isler, B., Schindler, C., de Hoogh, K. et al. Association of objectively measured and perceived environment with accelerometer-based physical activity and cycling: a Swiss population-based cross-sectional study of children. Int J Public Health 64, 499–510 (2019).

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