Physical activity levels and access to places to be physically active

Frances de Lesseline Meissner, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The built environment is recognized as having an impact on health and physical activity. Ecological theories of physical activity suggest that enhancing access to places to be physically active may increase activity levels. Studies show that users of fitness facilities are more likely to be active than inactive and active people are more likely to report access to fitness facilities. The purpose of this study was to examine the ecologic relationship between density of fitness facilities and self-reported levels of physical activity in adults in selected Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the United States. The 2007 MSA Business Patterns and the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) were used to gather fitness facility and physical activity data for 141 MSAs in the United States. Pearson correlations were performed between fitness facility density (number of facilities/100,000 people) and six summary measures of physical activity prevalence. Regional analysis was done using the nine U.S. Standard Regions for Temperature and Precipitation. Direct correlations between fitness facility density and the percent of those physically active (r=0.27, 95% CI 0.11, 0.42, p=0.0012), those meeting moderate-intensity activity guidelines, (r=0.23, 95% CI 0.07, 0.38, p=0.006), and those meeting vigorous-intensity activity guidelines (r=0.30, 95% CI 0.14, 0.44, p=0.003) were found. An inverse correlation was found between fitness facility density and the percent of people physically inactive (r=-0.45, 95% CI -0.57, -0.31), p<0.0001). Regional analysis showed the same trends across most regions. Access to fitness facilities, defined here as fitness facility density, is related to physical activity levels. Results suggest the potential importance of the influence of the built environment on physical activity behaviors. Public health officials and city planners should consider the possible positive effect that increasing the number of fitness facilities in communities would have on activity levels.

Subject Area

Public health|Kinesiology

Recommended Citation

Meissner, Frances de Lesseline, "Physical activity levels and access to places to be physically active" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474854.