One Size Doesn't Fit All

Cross-Sectional Associations Between Neighborhood Walkability, Crime and Physical Activity Depends on Age and Sex of Residents

Published in: BMC Public Health (2017) 17:97

Posted on on March 14, 2017

by Andrea Richardson, Wendy M. Troxel, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Robin L. Beckman, Gerald P. Hunter, Amy Soo Jin DeSantis, Natalie Colabianchi, Tamara Dubowitz

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Low-income African American adults are disproportionately affected by obesity and are also least likely to engage in recommended levels of physical activity (Flegal et al. JAMA 303(3):235-41, 2010; Tucker et al. Am J Prev Med 40(4):454-61, 2011). Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is an important factor for weight management and control, as well as for reducing disease risk (Andersen et al. Lancet 368(9532):299-304, 2006; Boreham and Riddoch J Sports Sci 19(12):915-29, 2001; Carson et al. PLoS One 8(8):e71417, 2013). While neighborhood greenspace and walkability have been associated with increased MVPA, evidence also suggests that living in areas with high rates of crime limits MVPA. Few studies have examined to what extent the confluence of neighborhood greenspace, walkability and crime might impact MVPA in low-income African American adults nor how associations may vary by age and sex.


In 2013 we collected self-reported data on demographics, functional limitations, objective measures of MVPA (accelerometry), neighborhood greenspace (geographic information system), and walkability (street audit) in 791 predominantly African-American adults (mean age 56 years) living in two United States (U.S.) low-income neighborhoods. We also acquired data from the City of Pittsburgh on all crime events within both neighborhoods.


To examine cross-sectional associations of neighborhood-related variables (i.e., neighborhood greenspace, walkability and crime) with MVPA, we used zero-inflated negative binomial regression models. Additionally, we examined potential interactions by age (over 65 years) and sex on relationships between neighborhood variables and MVPA.


Overall, residents engaged in very little to no MVPA regardless of where they lived. However, for women, but not men, under the age of 65 years, living in more walkable neighborhoods was associated with more time engaged in MVPA in (β = 0.55, p = 0.007) as compared to their counterparts living in less walkable areas. Women and men age 65 years and over spent very little time participating in MVPA regardless of neighborhood walkability. Neither greenspace nor crime was associated with MVPA in age-sex subgroups.


Neighborhood walkability may play a stronger role on MVPA than accessible greenspace or crime in low-income urban communities. Walkability may differentially impact residents depending on their age and sex, which suggests tailoring public health policy design and implementation according to neighborhood demographics to improve activity for all.

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