Neighborhood Influences on Diet and Physical Activity

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Virginia Tech


Objective: To examine associations between neighborhood characteristics and diet and physical activity in those of differing socio-economic status.

Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted among US adults living in a small Southeast community, including individuals at lower income levels. Physical activity was self-reported and objectively measured with a pedometer. Diet, self-efficacy, and perception of neighborhood friendliness were self-reported.

Main outcome measures: Minutes of physical activity, self-efficacy towards physical activity, where residents exercised, and perception of neighborhood friendliness towards physical activity.

Statistical Analysis Performed: Associations between where participants exercise and their minutes of daily exercise were analyzed by independent t-tests (p < 0.05). Income level and minutes of daily activity were analyzed with t-tests and later with UNIANOVA, controlling for age. Income and where participants exercise was analyzed using Chi square. Distance to the park and minutes of daily activity was analyzed with Pearson's correlation (two-sided, p < 0.05).

Results: Income was not associated with daily minutes of physical activity or where a person chose to be active. Age was the biggest predictor of physical activity. Living on a street with a hill was positively correlated with self-efficacy for physical activity but negatively correlated with perception of neighborhood friendliness towards physical activity.

Conclusion: Both high and low SES residents, within the same neighborhood, having access to the same recreational opportunities, did not differ in levels of physical activity. Both income groups met the current recommendations for physical activity suggesting access to parks with walking/biking trails, as well as other facilities, increases actual energy expenditure, independent of SES.

Applications: Health officials and urban planners could work together in creating more recreational opportunities, especially in low SES neighborhoods, to increase national levels of physical activity.



neighborhood influences, income, physical activity