Environment does have bearing on our physical activities

June 15th, 2010 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 15 (IANS) The environment can influence our physical activities, especially when it comes to where people live.
“We are not just measuring physical activity, but we are linking it to a location using small activity monitors and global positioning system (GPS) devices,” said Philip J. Troped.

Troped, assistant professor of health and kinesiology at the Purdue University, said: “A better understanding of how neighbourhood environments influence people’s behaviours could help us to get more people to be physically active and healthy.”

For example, a better understanding of where physical activity occurs and the characteristics of those areas could be used to develop more tailored intervention programmes or messages to encourage physical activity at those locations.

“Research has shown that there is a positive relationship between characteristics of neighbourhood-built environments and physical activity.”

“But one of the limitations is that the data has been collected with devices that only measure activity, so assumptions are made that physical activity is mostly happening around where people live - and that may not be the case,” Troped said.

Such environments are man-made and can reflect urban planning features such as how neighbourhoods are designed, convenience of trails and parks, width of sidewalks, and the connectivity of transportation routes.

Troped and his research team found that most of the moderate to vigorous physical activity people participated in took place outside a one-km buffer zone around their home.

When moderate to vigorous physical activity occurred within one-km of a person’s home, the buffer zone had a higher density of residential housing, more connected streets and a greater mix of residential and commercial land uses, which can allow people to walk to destinations such as stores.

The research team fitted 148 people, aged 19-78 years, with activity monitors and GPS devices for four days - two weekdays and two weekend days - in the Boston metropolitan area.

The activity monitors, also known as accelerometers, record the intensity of activity each minute during a person’s waking hours.

As the intensity for each minute increases, such as from walking to running, the activity count for each minute increases. If a person is sitting in a car or just fidgeting, then a low level of activity is reported.

The global positioning systems device was worn whenever the individual was outdoors or leaving the home, said a Purdue University release.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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