Changes in Street Layout and Physical Activity after Residential Relocation

Updated: Jul 1

Results from “A longitudinal residential relocation study of changes in street layout and physical activity”

McCormack, GR, Koohsari, MJ, Vena, JE, Oka, K, Nakaya, T, Chapman, J, Martinson, R & Matsalla, G

The role of street layout and the built environment on physical activity

Physical activity provides many health benefits, and the built environment can influence population physical activity levels. Neighbourhood features including walkability, pedestrian and street connectivity, land use and destination diversity, buildings, and greenspaces are associated with physical activity (1). Street connectivity refers to how directly different destinations are connected, and the ease of travelling between destinations (2, 3, 4). Space Syntax Theory provides a combined measure of street integration with land use and destinations (5, 6). Despite evidence that street layout can impact an individual’s physical activity, few studies have estimated the association between changes in street connectivity and changes in physical activity following residential relocation and none of these studies have used Space Syntax Theory. Using a Canadian longitudinal data set, a recent study estimated a) the differences in physical activity between non-movers and those relocating to neighbourhoods with less or more integrated street layouts, and b) associations between changes in exposure to street layout integration and differences in physical activity.

The association between residential relocation and physical activity

This study utilized data from the Alberta’s Tomorrow Project (ATP), a longitudinal, province-wide study conducted in Alberta (Canada). Focusing on participants from urban centres, the presented study categorized participants based on their residential relocation status from 2008 to 2015 into non-movers (n=5646) and movers (n=295), then further subdivided the movers into two groups: those who moved to neighbourhoods with more (n=130) or less (n=165) street integration. Using space syntax street integration and self-reported physical activity, this study provides evidence that, when compared to non-movers, those who relocated to areas with greater street integration participated in significantly more leisure walking (27.3 min/week), moderate-intensity physical activity (45.7 min/week), moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (54.4 min/week). Additionally, among movers, a one-unit increase in street integration was associated with a 7.5 min/week increase in leisure walking. These findings suggest that residential relocation to neighbourhoods with greater street integration can increase physical activity. Urban design policies that encourage improved neighbourhood street integration may be beneficial to encourage physical activity among adults.

Suggested Citation: McCormack, GR, Koohsari, MJ, Vena, JE. et al. A longitudinal residential relocation study of changes in street layout and physical activity. Sci Rep. 2021; 11: 7691.

Written by Calli Naish, BAS and Dalia Ghoneim, MPH, CSEP-CEP; Graphic by Calli Naish

Posted on June 21, 2021

  1. Salvo,G etal. Neighbourhood built environment influences on physical activity among adults: a systematized review of qualitative evidence. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2018.

  2. Frank, LD & Engelke, P. Multiple impacts of the built environment on public health: walkable places and the exposure to air pollution. Int. Reg. Sci. Rev. 2005; 28(2):193–216.

  3. Randall, TA & Baetz, BW. Evaluating pedestrian connectivity for suburban sustainability. J. Urban Plan. Dev. 2001; 127(1): 1–15

  4. Stangl,P & Guinn, J. Neighborhood design, connectivity assessment and obstruction. UrbanDes.Int. 2011; 16(4): 285–296.

  5. Koohsari, MJ etal. Street network measures and adults’ walking for transport: application of space syntax. Health Place. 2016; 38: 89–95.

  6. Koohsari,M.J.etal. Walkability and walking for transport: characterizing the built environment using space syntax. Int.J.Behav. Nutr. Phys. Act. 2016. 13(1): 121.

  7. Sharmin, S. & Kamruzzaman, M. Meta-analysis of the relationships between space syntax measures and pedestrian movement. Transp. Rev. 2018. 38(4): 524–550.