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J Public Health (Oxf). 2012 Aug;34(3):382-9. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fds011. Epub 2012 Feb 29.

Talking the talk, walking the walk: examining the effect of neighbourhood walkability and social connectedness on physical activity.

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Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behaviour, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, 800 Sumter - Room 216, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.



Few studies have considered the joint effects of social and physical environments on physical activity (PA). The primary purpose of this study was to examine the compounding effects of neighbourhood walkability and social connectedness on PA.


Data were collected from adults (n = 380) in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Perceptions of neighbourhood social connectedness and walkability were measured via survey. Minutes of neighbourhood PA for recreation and transportation were captured with a detailed 7-day log booklet. Four groups were created (e.g. high walkability/low social connectedness) and two factorial ANOVAs examined group differences in minutes of recreational and transport-related PA.


There were significant differences across the four walkability/social connectedness groups for both recreational (F = 11.36, P < 0.01) and transport-related PA (F = 8.12, P < 0.01). Participants perceiving both high walkability and social connectedness displayed the greatest levels of both recreational (130.6 min) and transport-related PA (24.5 min). The high walkability/low social connectedness group had greater transport-related PA than the two low walkability groups, while the high social connectedness/low walkability group had greater recreational PA than the two low social connectedness groups.


These findings underscore the relationship between physical and social dimensions of urban form and their association with health behaviours. PA promotion efforts should take into account both physical (e.g. land-use planning) and social (e.g. walking group) environments.

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