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Am J Prev Med. 2005 Feb;28(2 Suppl 2):177-85.

Evaluating change in physical activity with the building of a multi-use trail.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA.



Cross-sectional studies suggest a positive association between the presence of trails and physical activity participation. Prospective evaluations of the impact of building a multi-use trail, in terms of change in physical activity levels among nearby residents, are needed.


The study was designed as a quasi-experimental noncontrol pre-post design.


Participants included 366 adults aged > or =18 years living within 2 miles of the evaluated trail.


A railway of >23 miles was under development for conversion to a multi-use trail in central North Carolina. A segment of the trail was evaluated by randomly selecting and telephone interviewing adults living within 2 miles of the planned trail before trail construction began and approximately 2 months after completion of construction.


Outcomes were time spent in leisure activity, leisure activity near home, walking, bicycling, moderate activity, vigorous activity, and transportation activity.


At follow-up, of the 366 adults living within 2 miles of the trail, 11.0% had not heard of the trail, and 23.1% had heard of the trail and had used it at least once. In multivariable logistic models, leisure activity, leisure activity near home, moderate activity, vigorous activity, and walking for transportation did not significantly change for those who used the trail compared to those not using the trail.


This prospective study of the building of a multi-use trail did not demonstrate an increase in physical activity among adults living near the trail. Other prospective studies are encouraged, to take advantage of rigorously evaluating different types of trails that are to be constructed in rural and urban settings.

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