Do Neighborhoods Make People Active, or Do People Make Active Neighborhoods? Evidence from a Planned Community in Austin, Texas

Whether patterns of physical activity in different communities can be attributed to the built environment or instead reflect self-selection is not well understood. This article reports on a study undertaken to examine neighborhood preferences and behavior-specific physical activity among residents who moved to a new urbanist-designed community. The authors used data from a 2009 survey (n = 424) that was designed and administered to evaluate neighborhood preferences and behavior-specific physical activity before and after residents moved. Data were grouped and stratified by pre-move physical activity levels into low-, middle-, and high-activity groups. The authors used Student’s paired sample t test and Wilcoxon signed-rank test to compare pre- and post-move scores and used an analysis of variance to compare mean changes as a function of pre-move physical activity level. After moving, the high-activity group continued to be significantly more active than the middle- and low-activity groups (P < .001). However, the authors report the biggest increase in pre- to post-move total physical activity in the low-activity group (mean increase, 176.3 min/wk) compared with the middle- (mean increase, 69.5 min/wk) and high-activity groups (mean decrease, 67.9 min/wk). All 3 groups had significant increases in walking inside the neighborhood for recreation. The preferred neighborhood features with the most significant pre- to post-move change scores were those associated with greater walkability. This study supports the role the environment plays in physical activity. These data suggest that moving to an activity-friendly neighborhood can positively affect physical activity levels, particularly among residents who had previously been least active.


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  • Accession Number: 01496514
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 2 2013 4:33PM