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Ann Behav Med. 2004 Aug;28(1):20-8.

Socioeconomic status and perceptions of access and safety for physical activity.

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Preventino Research Center, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia 29208, USA.



Environmental factors may play an important role on influencing physical activity (PA) behaviors.


Perceptions of access and safety for PA were compared among residents who were stratified as low or high in socioeconomic status (SES).


Residents of a U.S. southeastern county (N = 1,194, 18-96 years of age) were contacted using a random-digit-dial method and asked about neighborhood and community environmental supports for PA. A Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to identify trails, sidewalks, public recreation facilities, and violent crime incidents.


A cluster analysis identified 10 census tracts as low SES and 11 census tracts as high SES (median household income, owner-occupied houses). More African Americans (66.5%) than Whites (33.5%) were classified as living in low-SES areas. Respondents from low-SES areas also reported engaging in less PA based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American College of Sports Medicine recommendations than respondents from high-SES areas (p <.05). Respondents from low-SES (vs. high-SES) areas reported higher perceptions of neighborhood crime, unattended dogs, unpleasantness of neighborhoods, untrustworthy neighbors, and less access to public recreation facilities (ps <.05). GIS data for presence of sidewalks, recreation facilities, and crime did not support these differences in perceptions; however, respondents from low-SES (vs. high-SES) areas had substantially fewer trails. Having and using trails in one's community predicted sufficient PA and walking for 150 min/week for low-SES respondents but not for high SES respondents (ps =.05, adjusted for covariates).


Having access to trails is an important environmental feature among low-SES communities and should be the focus of future community-based PA interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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