Residential Relocation's Affect on Physical Activity

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Results from “A mixed methods study on the barriers and facilitators of physical activity associated with residential relocation”.

Salvo, G., Lashewicz, B.M, Doyle-Baker, P.K., & McCormack, G.R.

Understanding the built environments affect on physical activity

Neighbourhood built environments are an important factor affecting a person’s physical activity levels (1). Changes to physical activity behaviour following neighbourhood relocation should be explored. Describing the experiences of people who have moved to either a more or less walkable neighbourhood can provide a better understanding of the relationship between the built environment and physical activity. A mixed methods study was conducted to measure changes in overall physical activity and describe the perceived barriers and facilitators to physical activity following residential relocation.

Changes to physical activity following residential relocation

Residential Relocation and Physical Activity

People who moved to a more walkable neighbourhood reported a slight increase in their transportation walking, but reported little or no perceived change in their transportation cycling. In contrast, people who moved to a less walkable neighbourhood reported little or no perceived change in their transportation walking, but reported a slight decrease in their transportation cycling. A change in neighbourhood walkability was not found to be associated with a person’s perceived change in their overall physical activity levels. Results from the qualitative portion of the study explain this finding.

Neighbourhood leisure physical activity was described by participants to be influenced by the presence of aesthetic features and availability of recreational opportunities that allow them to improve their connections with their community and family. Neighbourhoods with more intersections and increased connectivity encouraged adults to walk for transportation. Some participants had also adjusted their leisure physical activity habits to compensate for any less transportation walking or cycling they may experience following residential relocation in order to maintain similar overall physical activity levels. This finding may explain why an association between overall physical activity and walkability was not found during the quantitative phase.

Health supportive neighbourhood built design

Based on these findings, relocating to a new neighbourhood can influence physical activity behaviours and therefore, the built environment is an important contributor for changes in physical activity following residential relocation. Urban and transportation policies and design should focus on reducing local motorized traffic (e.g. fused-grid street patterns), supporting public transportation, and creating direct and connected walking and cycling paths separated from motorized traffic to nearby destinations to support improvements in transportation walking and cycling. Efforts should also be directed towards developing built environment features that encourage leisure physical activity such as natural aesthetic elements, interesting places to explore, and facilities such as large parks, soccer fields, playgrounds, and skating rinks to help increase physical activity levels of adults who live in less walkable neighbourhoods.

Suggested Citation: Salvo G, Lashewicz BM, Doyle-Baker PK, McCormack GR. A Mixed Methods Study on the Barriers and Facilitators of Physical Activity Associated with Residential Relocation. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2018;2018:1-12. doi:

Written by Dalia Ghoneim, MPH, CSEP-CEP; Posted 27/05/19.

(1) Giles-Corti B, Sallis JF, Sugiyama T, Frank LD, Lowe M, Owen N. Translating active living research into policy and practice: one important pathway to chronic disease prevention. Journal of public health policy. 2015;36(2):231-43.

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