Has the development of a New Urbanist community affected the physical activity levels of residents in surrounding neighborhoods?

Emily E Neusel, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Study Aims. The neighborhood environment has been shown to influence physical activity levels, but little is known about how far-reaching these effects are. This study sought to determine whether or not the development of a New Urbanist community in Austin, Texas affected the physical activity levels of residents in surrounding neighborhoods. The results were stratified by demographic characteristics, residential distance from the New Urbanist community, and type of physical activity to determine if any observed changes varied by these factors. Methods. Self-report questionnaires were mailed to a random sample of households located within one mile of the New Urbanist development. The questionnaire included questions about physical activity behaviors before and after the community was constructed in 2006. Changes in reported levels of physical activity between the two time points were examined. Results. The prevalence and average minutes per week of total physical activity did not change. Significant increases in the frequency and quantity of moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity were observed. The amount of time spent walking and biking for recreation outside of the neighborhood increased significantly among those living close to Mueller. The weekly time spent in vigorous-intensity activity increased significantly, especially among those living closer to Mueller. There were significant decreases in the prevalence of and time spent walking for transport. The use of Mueller parks and trails was highest among participants living close to Mueller. Conclusions. The nearby Mueller development does not appear to have encouraged sedentary members of the surrounding population to become physically active, but might be associated with increased weekly physical activity among those who were already active. The increase in vigorous-intensity physical activity and recreational walking/biking outside of the neighborhood among those subjects living closer to Mueller may be attributed to the use of Mueller parks and trails, which was also considerably higher among this group. People may be substituting the time they spent walking for transport before the Mueller development with moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity. Future research should seek to identify barriers that may be preventing more nearby residents from using Mueller facilities for physical activity.

Subject Area

Public health|Kinesiology|Recreation|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Neusel, Emily E, "Has the development of a New Urbanist community affected the physical activity levels of residents in surrounding neighborhoods?" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474845.