Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the association of perceived physical neighborhood factors with physical activity, sedentary behavior, and BMI among adolescent girls.
Research Methods and Procedures: Sixth grade girls (n = 1554) completed a questionnaire on neighborhood factors (e.g., safety, esthetics, access to physical activity resources). The dependent variables included non-school metabolic equivalent weighted moderate to vigorous physical activity (MW-MVPA) and non-school sedentary behavior, both measured using accelerometry, and BMI.
Results: The following neighborhood factors were associated with lower BMI: seeing walkers and bikers on neighborhood streets, not having a lot of crime in the neighborhood, seeing other children playing outdoors, having bicycle or walking trails in the neighborhood, and access to physical activity facilities. The absolute contribution for the average girl for each of these neighborhood factors was relatively small, with none of these factors exceeding 0.8 kg/m2 BMI units. The following neighborhood factors were associated with higher MW-MVPA: having well-lit streets at night, having a lot of traffic in the neighborhood, having bicycle or walking trails in the neighborhood, and access to physical activity facilities. Girls with ≥9 places to go for physical activity had 14.0% higher non-school MW-MVPA than girls with ≤4 places.
Discussion: This study identified several neighborhood factors associated with non-school MW-MVPA and BMI, but none of the factors explored were associated with non-school sedentary behavior. Of all of the neighborhood factors we examined, reporting more physically active destinations contributed the largest absolute amount to the average girl's non-school MW-MVPA, according to this cross-sectional study.