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Assessing Neighbourhood Physical Activity

Updated: Jun 23

Results from "Test-retest reliability of a modified International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) to capture neighbourhood physical activity".

Frehlich, L., Friedenreich, C., Nettel-Aguirre, A., & Mccormack, G.R.

Physical activity has many driving forces

Understanding a person’s reason to be physically active can allow public health professionals to address why population levels of physical activity participation have been low. At a personal level, physical activity can be affected by someone’s age, sex, health status and self-efficacy, but there are other factors at the societal level that can also affect physical activity levels. These cultural and environmental factors include economic conditions, social norms for being active, neighbourhood design, and industrialisation (1).


A new measurement tool for neighbourhood-based activity

People spend a majority of their time in the neighbourhood/community they live in. Therefore, interventions or research on how the neighbourhood affects physical activity levels represents a great area for population public health researchers to become involved. However, many of the tools available to researchers do not factor in where the individual is doing activity and only looks at how much activity is completed. Although measuring total physical activity is important, if we do not measure where people choose to be physically active, we can miss important opportunities to increase population health. Devices like global positioning systems (GPS) can help measure the location of physical activity; however, these devices have limited usage in population based research as they are expensive and burdensome to the participant. Conversely, self-report questionnaires represent a fast and cost-effective way to collect large population level data (2).

To address the above limitations, we developed the Neighbourhood-International Physical Activity Questionnaire (N-IPAQ). The N-IPAQ was based off of one of the most popular physical activity questionnaires – the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) (3). We modified the IPAQ to measure neighbourhood-based physical activity then we tested to see if these modifications were reliable and could pick up differences between neighbourhoods. We found the N-IPAQ was reliable for measuring the number of days of neighbourhood-based walking and bicycling for recreation and transportation, and the number of days of neighbourhood-based moderate and vigorous physical activity. We also found that the N-IPAQ was reliable at measuring the number of minutes in these categories. Importantly, we also found that the N-IPAQ was able to show differences in physical activity between neighbourhoods. For example, the N-IPAQ found that individuals living in low-walkable communities reported 124 minutes a week of walking and 17 minutes a week of bicycling, whereas, individuals from high-walkable communities reported 175 minutes a week of walking and 33 minutes a week of bicycling.


The N-IPAQ is an inexpensive self-reported tool that provides reliable estimates of neighbourhood-based physical activity for large population-based studies.


Suggested Citation: Frehlich, L., Friedenreich, C., Nettel-Aguirre, A., & McCormack, G.R. (2018). Test-retest reliability of a modified International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) to capture neighbourhood physical activity. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 13(1), in press. doi: https://doi.org/10.14198/jhse.2018.131.17


Suggested Citation: Frehlich, L., Friedenreich, C., Nettel-Aguirre, A., & McCormack, G.R. (2018). Test-retest reliability of a modified International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) to capture neighbourhood physical activity. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 13(1), in press. doi:https://doi.org/10.14198/jhse.2018.131.17


Written by Levi Frehlich, B.Sc (Hons), MSc, PhD Student (Epidemiology); Posted on 27/05/2019.

(1) Bauman, A. E., Reis, R. S., Sallis, J. F., Wells, J. C., Loos, R. J., Martin, B. W., & Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. (2012). Correlates of physical activity: why are some people physically active and others not?. The lancet, 380(9838), 258-271.

(2) Sallis, J. F., & Saelens, B. E. (2000). Assessment of physical activity by self- report: status, limitations, and future directions. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 71 (2 Suppl), S1-14.

(3) Craig, C. L., Marshall, A. L., Sjöström, M., Bauman, A. E., Booth, M. L., Ainsworth, B. E., ... & Oja, P. (2003). International physical activity questionnaire: 12-country reliability and validity. Medicine & science in sports & exercise, 35(8), 1381-1395.

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