Does home neighbourhood supportiveness influence the location more than volume of adolescent's physical activity? An observational study using Global Positioning Systems

Emma Coombes, Andy Jones, Ashley Cooper, Angie Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Environmental characteristics of home neighbourhoods are hypothesised to be associated with residents’ physical activity levels, yet many studies report only weak or equivocal associations. We theorise that this may be because neighbourhood characteristics influence the location of activity more than the volume. Using a sample of UK adolescents, we examine the role of home neighbourhood supportiveness for physical activity, both in terms of volume of activity undertaken and a measure of proximity to home at which activity takes place.

Methods: Data were analysed from 967 adolescents living in and around the city of Bristol, UK. Each participant wore an accelerometer and a GPS device for seven days during school term time. These data were integrated into a Geographical Information System containing information on the participants’ home neighbourhoods and measures of environmental supportiveness. We then identified the amount of out-of-school activity of different intensities that adolescents undertook inside their home neighbourhood and examined how this related to home neighbourhood supportiveness.

Results: We found that living in a less supportive neighbourhood did not negatively impact the volume of physical activity that adolescents undertook. Indeed these participants recorded similar amounts of activity (e.g. 20.5 mins per day of moderate activity at weekends) as those in more supportive neighbourhoods (18.6 mins per day). However, the amount of activity adolescents undertook inside their home neighbourhood did differ according to supportiveness; those living in less supportive locations had lower odds of recording activity inside their home neighbourhood. This was observed across all intensities of activity including sedentary, light, moderate, and vigorous.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the supportiveness of the neighbourhood around home may have a greater influence on the location of physical activity than the volume undertaken. This finding is at odds with the premise of the socio-ecological models of physical activity that have driven this research field for the last two decades, and has implications for future research, as by simply measuring volumes of activity we may be underestimating the impact of the environment on physical activity behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Article number149
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017


  • Adolescents
  • Physical activity
  • Global positioning systems
  • Neighbourhood
  • Environmental supportiveness

Cite this