Policymakers and community planners have credible evidence to support investments in active transportation and walkability-focused developments, according to an analysis published in the Annual Review of Public Health.
The analysis was based on work by the International Physical Activity and Environment Network (IPEN) to explore the association of built environments with physical activity and weight status of adults across 12 countries on 5 continents.
Some key takeaways:
- The association between the built environment and physical activity outcomes is substantial
- The association between the built environment and overweight/obesity is meaningful, but probably less than the association with physical activity
- Neighborhoods in the top 5% of activity-friendly built environments were associated with 41 more minutes of self-reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week than neighborhoods in the lowest 5%
- Neighborhoods designed to facilitate walking as a means of transportation were also associated with elevated levels of leisure time walking
- The relationship between activity-friendly built environments and physical activity is relatively consistent across diverse countries
“IPEN Adult results provide policy makers with an evidence-based rationale to pursue transportation and land-use actions that are outside current agency practices, which in many countries strongly prioritize automobile travel and separation of land uses,” concluded the authors.
IPEN Adult results provide policy makers with an evidence-based rationale to pursue transportation and land-use actions that are outside current agency practices, which in many countries strongly prioritize automobile travel and separation of land uses
“City leaders do not need to rely only on IPEN Adult data because growing prospective and natural experiment evidence led the US Guide to Community Preventive Services to recommend combinations of land use and transportation interventions, and the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity features ‘create active places’ as one of its four main strategies,” added the authors.
Why It Matters
The last 100 years of community development has been defined by optimization for automobile transportation. To reverse the trend, policymakers and community planners need compelling evidence to support a case for investments in activity-friendly environments and infrastructure. This study demonstrates a strong association between activity-friendly environments and human behavior, which is a major piece of evidence. Additional evidence to support the case would include the popularity of activity-friendly environments (politicians are particularly sensitive to popular investments), the economic impact of activity-friendly environments, and the return on investment.