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The physical environment and its association with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in adults and adolescents

Delfien Van Dyck UGent (2012)
abstract
Because large proportions of adult and adolescent populations living in developed countries do not engage in sufficient physical activity to gain health benefits out of it, effective interventions to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary time are needed. Nonetheless, before such interventions can be developed, the most consistent multi-dimensional correlates of these health behaviors need to be determined. The present thesis focuses on providing better insight in the physical environmental correlates of physical activity and sedentary time in adults (20-65 years) and adolescents (12-18 years), and on the interplay of these physical environmental factors with socio-demographic and psychosocial attributes. The main aims of our research were fourfold: a first aim was to provide insight in the associations of objectively-assessed neighborhood walkability with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in Belgian adults. Second, we examined the interplay between different aspects of ecological models (socio-demographic, psychosocial and physical environmental factors) to explain physical activity and sedentary time in adults. A third aim was to address the importance of international studies in adults by including data from three studies using a similar design in three environmentally- and culturally-diverse countries (Australia, USA and Belgium) and fourth, we investigated physical environmental correlates of physical activity in adolescents. For the first aim, study results showed that high neighborhood walkability was associated with more self-reported and objectively-assessed physical activity in adults, but also with more sedentary time. Furthermore, mediation analyses revealed that the associations of walkability with BMI and waist-to-height ratio were mediated by different types of physical activity, but not by sedentary time. The associations between neighborhood walkability and the outcome behaviors appeared to be robust, as no moderating effects of neighborhood-level socio-economic status and no confounding influence of residential self-selection were identified. It seems that environmental interventions may similarly influence adults living in high- or low-income neighborhoods, or adults with high or low residential self-selection. Results of the studies addressing the second research aim confirmed the interplay between different aspects of ecological models to explain physical activity, by showing that adults with less positive psychosocial profiles may be reached by creating and activity-friendly environment. Similarly, adults living in rural areas where built-environment innovations are difficult to implement, may be reached through individual interventions. Furthermore, socio-demographic, as well as psychosocial and built environment perceptions contributed to explaining physical activity in adults. For sedentary behaviors, the results were less conclusive. Concerning the third aim, our findings confirmed the added value of conducting international studies with similar study designs using pooled analyses. Some generalizable associations between environmental perceptions and health behaviors (active transportation, active recreation and sedentary time) were identified, but several important country-specific results were also revealed. Such international studies are needed to fully understand the complex associations between the built environment and health behaviors and to discover whether similar intervention strategies can be used internationally. Finally, results of the studies addressing the fourth research aim showed that walkability characteristics are differently related to physical activity in adolescents compared with adults. Despite the positive associations in adults, no strong relations with physical activity were found in adolescents. Consequently, built environment interventions to improve walkability will probably not be effective to increase adolescents’ physical activity, so researchers should keep focusing on multi-dimensional strategies (including psychosocial factors and possibly other environmental characteristics besides walkability) to develop interventions aimed at adolescents.
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author
promoter
UGent and UGent
organization
year
type
dissertation (monograph)
subject
pages
335 pages
publisher
Ghent University. Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
place of publication
Ghent, Belgium
defense location
Gent : Het Pand (zaal rector Vermeylen)
defense date
2012-05-10 17:30
ISBN
9789461970329
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
D1
additional info
dissertation consists of copyrighted material
copyright statement
I have transferred the copyright for this publication to the publisher
id
2091320
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-2091320
date created
2012-04-19 13:45:13
date last changed
2012-04-19 15:09:00
@phdthesis{2091320,
  abstract     = {Because large proportions of adult and adolescent populations living in developed countries do not engage in sufficient physical activity to gain health benefits out of it, effective interventions to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary time are needed. Nonetheless, before such interventions can be developed, the most consistent multi-dimensional correlates of these health behaviors need to be determined. The present thesis focuses on providing better insight in the physical environmental correlates of physical activity and sedentary time in adults (20-65 years) and adolescents (12-18 years), and on the interplay of these physical environmental factors with socio-demographic and psychosocial attributes. The main aims of our research were fourfold: a first aim was to provide insight in the associations of objectively-assessed neighborhood walkability with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in Belgian adults. Second, we examined the interplay between different aspects of ecological models (socio-demographic, psychosocial and physical environmental factors) to explain physical activity and sedentary time in adults. A third aim was to address the importance of international studies in adults by including data from three studies using a similar design in three environmentally- and culturally-diverse countries (Australia, USA and Belgium) and fourth, we investigated physical environmental correlates of physical activity in adolescents. 
For the first aim, study results showed that high neighborhood walkability was associated with more self-reported and objectively-assessed physical activity in adults, but also with more sedentary time. Furthermore, mediation analyses revealed that the associations of walkability with BMI and waist-to-height ratio were mediated by different types of physical activity, but not by sedentary time. The associations between neighborhood walkability and the outcome behaviors appeared to be robust, as no moderating effects of neighborhood-level socio-economic status and no confounding influence of residential self-selection were identified. It seems that environmental interventions may similarly influence adults living in high- or low-income neighborhoods, or adults with high or low residential self-selection.
Results of the studies addressing the second research aim confirmed the interplay between different aspects of ecological models to explain physical activity, by showing that adults with less positive psychosocial profiles may be reached by creating and activity-friendly environment. Similarly, adults living in rural areas where built-environment innovations are difficult to implement, may be reached through individual interventions. Furthermore, socio-demographic, as well as psychosocial and built environment perceptions contributed to explaining physical activity in adults. For sedentary behaviors, the results were less conclusive.
Concerning the third aim, our findings confirmed the added value of conducting international studies with similar study designs using pooled analyses. Some generalizable associations between environmental perceptions and health behaviors (active transportation, active recreation and sedentary time) were identified, but several important country-specific results were also revealed. Such international studies are needed to fully understand the complex associations between the built environment and health behaviors and to discover whether similar intervention strategies can be used internationally.
Finally, results of the studies addressing the fourth research aim showed that walkability characteristics are differently related to physical activity in adolescents compared with adults. Despite the positive associations in adults, no strong relations with physical activity were found in adolescents. Consequently, built environment interventions to improve walkability will probably not be effective to increase adolescents{\textquoteright} physical activity, so researchers should keep focusing on multi-dimensional strategies (including psychosocial factors and possibly other environmental characteristics besides walkability) to develop interventions aimed at adolescents.},
  author       = {Van Dyck, Delfien},
  isbn         = {9789461970329},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {335},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {The physical environment and its association with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in adults and adolescents},
  year         = {2012},
}

Chicago
Van Dyck, Delfien. 2012. “The Physical Environment and Its Association with Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors in Adults and Adolescents”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
APA
Van Dyck, Delfien. (2012). The physical environment and its association with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in adults and adolescents. Ghent University. Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Van Dyck D. The physical environment and its association with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in adults and adolescents. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences; 2012.
MLA
Van Dyck, Delfien. “The Physical Environment and Its Association with Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors in Adults and Adolescents.” 2012 : n. pag. Print.