Research Study Abstract

Challenging traditional definitions of the home neighbourhood: How far do adolescents roam from home to be physically active?

  • Presented on May 21, 2014

Purpose: Environmental characteristics of home neighbourhoods are hypothesised to be associated with residents’ physical activity levels, yet many studies report only weak associations. We propose this is in part a result of inappropriate definitions of what constitutes a neighbourhood. We objectively measured the distance that adolescents roamed from home to undertake physical activity and examined how this corresponded to traditionally defined measures of home neighbourhood supportiveness.

Methods: Data were analysed from 571 UK adolescents in the PEAR project. Each participant wore an accelerometer and a GPS device for seven days. These data were integrated into a Geographical Information System containing information on participants’ home neighbourhoods and measures of environmental supportiveness. We then identified the distance from home that adolescents undertook different intensities of physical activity and examined how this related to home neighbourhood supportiveness.

Results: We found that being in a less supportive neighbourhood did not negatively impact adolescents’ physical activity levels, indeed these participants recorded more minutes of physical activity, at all intensities, than those in more supportive neighbourhoods. However, adolescents from less supportive neighbourhoods roamed further from home to undertake light, moderate, and vigorous activity than those from more supportive neighbourhoods.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that traditional definitions of the home neighbourhood may be more relevant for those living in more supportive local environments. Given that the relevance of this exposure appears associated with its value, this has important methodological implications for researchers seeking to understand the role of the home environment in supporting physical activity.