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Neighbourhood Built Environments and Physical Activity Among low SES Adults in Canada

Updated: Jul 30

Results from “Associations between the built environment and physical activity among adults with low socio-economic status in Canada: a systematic review”

Christie CD, Consoli A, Ronksley PE, Vena JE, Friedenreich CM, and McCormack GR


Do Canadian adults of all backgrounds get enough physical activity?

Low levels of physical activity have been linked to an increased risk of many negative health conditions (1). Unfortunately, most Canadian adults do not obtain enough physical activity to experience health benefits (2). Canadian adults with low socioeconomic status (SES; i.e., low education or income) tend to obtain even lower levels of physical activity compared to adults with higher SES (3). Modifying the neighbourhood built environment (e.g., increasing pedestrian connectivity or the diversity of destinations nearby) may be one way to increase physical activity levels (4). However, no studies have reviewed the evidence for the impact of the built environment on physical activity among adults with low SES in Canada.


Neighbourhood built environments and physical activity among adults with low SES in Canada

The systematic review findings show that there is limited research in this area (only 7 studies were identified). There are many ways to measure SES, however, most studies in the review used household income as an indicator of SES. Several neighbourhood built environment characteristics were associated with increases in physical activity, such as street connectivity, greenness, destination density, and overall walkability. Findings were more consistent when researchers measured the built environment objectively compared to when researchers measured the built environment using participant perceptions.


Neighbourhood built environments appear beneficial for this group

Overall, the findings suggest that the neighbourhood built environment is associated with physical activity among adults with low SES. Future research should focus on different types of physical activity (e.g., walking for recreation or transportation) and examine the extent to which adults with lower SES can afford to live in physical activity supportive built environments.








Suggested Citation: Christie CD, Consoli A, Ronksley PE, Vena JE, Friedenreich CM, McCormack GR. Associations between the built environment and physical activity among adults with low socio-economic status in Canada: a systematic review. Canadian Journal of Public Health= Revue Canadienne de Santé Publique. 2021 Feb;112(1):152.


Written by Chelsea Christie MA Psychology, BA (Hons) Psychology; Posted July 29, 2021

References:

  1. Warburton DE, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews. Current opinion in cardiology. 2017 Sep 1;32(5):541-56.

  2. Colley RC, Butler G, Garriguet D, Prince SA, Roberts KC. Comparison of self-reported and accelerometer-measured physical activity in Canadian adults. Health Rep. 2018 Dec 29;29(12):3-15.

  3. Pan SY, Cameron C, DesMeules M, Morrison H, Craig CL, Jiang X. Individual, social, environmental, and physical environmental correlates with physical activity among Canadians: a cross-sectional study. BMC public health. 2009 Dec;9(1):1-2.

  4. Ding D, Gebel K. Built environment, physical activity, and obesity: what have we learned from reviewing the literature?. Health & place. 2012 Jan 1;18(1):100-5.