Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 7, pp 1635–1660 | Cite as

Relationships Between Neighbourhood Physical Environmental Attributes and Older Adults’ Leisure-Time Physical Activity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • Jelle Van CauwenbergEmail author
  • Andrea Nathan
  • Anthony Barnett
  • David W. Barnett
  • Ester Cerin
  • the Council on Environment and Physical Activity (CEPA)-Older Adults Working Group
Systematic Review



Activity-friendly neighbourhood physical environments with access to recreational facilities are hypothesised to facilitate leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) among older adults (≥ 65 years old). The aim of the current study was to systematically review and quantitatively summarise study findings on the relationships between physical environmental attributes and LTPA among older adults.


An extensive search of literature, including grey literature, yielded 72 articles eligible for inclusion. The reported associations between seven categories of environmental attributes and six LTPA outcomes were extracted, weighted by sample size and study quality, and quantitatively summarised. Reported moderating effects of individual and environmental characteristics and neighbourhood definition were also examined.


We observed positive associations for walkability (p = 0.01), land-use mix—access (p = 0.02) and aesthetically pleasing scenery (p < 0.001) with leisure-time walking. For leisure-time walking within the neighbourhood, evidence was found for positive associations with land-use mix—access (p = 0.03) and access to public transit (p = 0.05), and a negative association with barriers to walking/cycling (p = 0.03). Evidence for positive relationships between overall LTPA and access to recreational facilities (p = 0.01) and parks/open space (p = 0.04) was found. Several environmental attribute–LTPA outcome combinations were insufficiently studied to draw conclusions. No consistent moderating effects were observed for individual and environmental characteristics and neighbourhood definition.


The observed significant relationships can be used to inform policy makers and planners on how to (re-)design neighbourhoods that promote LTPA among older adults. Many environmental attribute–LTPA outcome relationships have been studied insufficiently and several methodological issues remain to be addressed.

Systematic Review Registration Number

PROSPERO 2016:CRD42016051180.



This work has been undertaken as a collaborative effort under the umbrella of the Council on Environment and Physical Activity—Older Adults Working Group (International Society for Physical Activity and Health) chaired by Ester Cerin.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


Jelle Van Cauwenberg is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO, 12I1117N). Ester Cerin is supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT3 140100085. The funding bodies had no role in the design of the review and meta-analysis, interpretation of data or writing of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

Jelle Van Cauwenberg, Andrea Nathan, Anthony Barnett, David Barnett and Ester Cerin 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 186 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 54 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 23 kb)
40279_2018_917_MOESM4_ESM.docx (37 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 37 kb)
40279_2018_917_MOESM5_ESM.docx (36 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jelle Van Cauwenberg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Andrea Nathan
    • 3
  • Anthony Barnett
    • 3
  • David W. Barnett
    • 3
  • Ester Cerin
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • the Council on Environment and Physical Activity (CEPA)-Older Adults Working Group
  1. 1.Department of Public HealthGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Research Foundation FlandersBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Mary MacKillop Institute for Health ResearchAustralian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.School of Public HealthThe University of Hong KongPokfulamChina
  5. 5.Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes InstituteMelbourneAustralia

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