Research Study Abstract

A favorable built environment is associated with better physical fitness in European adolescents.

  • Published on December 2013

Objective To assess the association between the built environment and physical fitness and physical activity in adolescents.

Methods The study included 3528 adolescents, aged 12.5-17.5years, who participated in the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence (HELENA) study. The health-related physical fitness components were assessed using the physical fitness tests. Participants wore a uniaxial accelerometer (ActiGraph®) for 7days to measure physical activity. A specific questionnaire addressing the built environment was used. Potential confounding factors including age, gender, body mass index, body composition, pubertal status, smoking, educational level of parents, and socioeconomic status were analyzed using backward stepwise linear regression analysis.

Results Heavy traffic in the neighborhood was the strongest factor negatively associated with both physical fitness and physical activity (both P<0.05). Conversely, a secure bicycling or walking route from home to school was positively associated with various components of physical fitness and physical activity (P<0.01). Outdoor fields and gymnasiums near home were also associated with better physical fitness (P<0.01), but not with physical activity

Conclusions A favorable built environment may contribute to health-related physical fitness and physical activity of adolescents and should be considered in future interventions and health promotion strategies.


  • Jérémy Vanhelst 1, 2
  • Laurent Béghin 1, 2
  • Julia Salleron 3
  • Jonatan R. Ruiz 4
  • Francisco B. Ortega 4, 6
  • Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij 7
  • Dénes Molnar 8
  • Yannis Manios 9
  • Kurt Widhalm 10
  • Germán Vicente-Rodriguez 11
  • Beatrice Mauro 12
  • Luis A. Moreno 11
  • Michael Sjöström 4
  • Manuel J. Castillo 6
  • Frédéric Gottrand 1


  • 1

    INSERM U995, University Lille Nord de France, Lille, France

  • 2

    CIC-PT-9301-INSERM-CH&U, University Hospital, Lille, France

  • 3

    Department of Biostatistics, University Lille Nord de France, Lille, France

  • 4

    Unit for Preventive Nutrition, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden

  • 5

    Department of Physical Education and Sport, School of Sport Sciences, Granada University, Granada, Spain

  • 6

    Department of Medical Physiology, School of Medicine, Granada University, Granada, Spain

  • 7

    Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

  • 8

    Department of Pediatrics, Pécs University, Pécs, Hungary

  • 9

    Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece

  • 10

    Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Vienna University, Vienna, Austria

  • 11

    GENUD (Growth, Exercise, Nutrition and Development) Research Group, Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Zaragoza University, Zaragoza, Spain

  • 12

    National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, Rome, Italy


Preventive Medicine


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