A community-academic partnership
committed to fostering health 
equity in Detroit since 2000

Physical Activity Environment

Understanding how environments are associated with physical activity is a key area of interest for the Healthy Environments Partnership. Beginning with our first study, Social and Physical Environments and Health Disparities (SPEHD, 2000-2005, R01 ES10936), we examined how social and economic inequalities shaped the environments in which people lived, and their implications for health. One of the core dimensions of interest was how neighborhood environments might influence physical activity among Detroit residents. This research continued with the Lean and Green in Motown (LGM, 2005-2010, R01 ES14234-3) project, which extended our initial study to encompass a focus on the cities’ infrastructure (e.g., the extent to which city streets are interconnected) and newly developing greenways being built throughout Detroit neighborhoods to examine their implications for physical activity and social engagement.

Observational data of Detroit neighborhoods collected through SPEHD provided systematic data on neighborhood characteristics, including for example, condition of sidewalks and buildings in any given residential block. Analyses conducted using these data demonstrated that, for example, people living in neighborhoods where sidewalk conditions were poor (e.g., broken, uneven) reported lower levels of physical activity compared with those living in neighborhoods with sidewalks in good condition.

Building on these studies, data collected through LGM provided the opportunity to further examine neighborhood conditions associated with physical activity. Findings indicated that sidewalk condition, the level of physical deterioration in a community (e.g., condition of buildings), and the proportion of parks and playgrounds in a neighborhood that are in good condition are all linked with physical activity of residents. These findings suggest the importance of investment in neighborhood environments in order to support physical activity and promote health among residents of Detroit and similar urban communities. Based on findings from our research on physical activity environments, HEP worked together to develop the Community Approaches to Cardiovascular Health project related to promoting physical activity.

Please visit the Publications page to learn more about HEP’s research on this important issue. Relevant publications include: Johnson-Lawrence et. al. 2015; Kwarteng et. al. 2014; Wineman et. al. 2014; Schulz et. al. 2013.

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