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Am J Prev Med. 2013 Oct;45(4):386-92. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.05.010.

Smart growth community design and physical activity in children.

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School of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health Sciences (Jerrett, Almanza), University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California. Electronic address:



Physical inactivity is a leading cause of death and disease globally. Research suggests physical inactivity might be linked to community designs that discourage active living. A "smart growth" community contains features likely to promote active living (walkability, green space, mixed land use), but objective evidence on the potential benefits of smart growth communities is limited.


To assess whether living in a smart growth community was associated with increased neighborhood-centered leisure-time physical activity in children aged 8-14 years, compared to residing in a conventional community (i.e., one not designed according to smart growth principles).


Participants were recruited from a smart growth community, "The Preserve," located in Chino, California, and eight conventional communities within a 30-minute drive of The Preserve. The analytic sample included 147 children. During 2009-2010, each child carried an accelerometer and a GPS for 7 days to ascertain physical activity and location information. Negative binomial models were used to assess the association between residence in the smart growth community and physical activity. Analyses were conducted in 2012.


Smart growth community residence was associated with a 46% increase in the proportion of neighborhood moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) as compared to conventional community residence. This analysis included neighborhood activity data collected during the school season and outside of school hours and home. Counterfactual simulations with model parameters suggested that smart growth community residence could add 10 minutes per day of neighborhood MVPA.


Living in a smart growth community may increase local physical activity in children as compared to residence in conventionally designed communities.

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