The unbuilt environment

Culture moderates the built environment for physical activity

Andrew J. Perrin, Neal Caren, Asheley C. Skinner, Adebowale Odulana, Eliana M. Perrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: While research has demonstrated a link between the built environment and obesity, much variation remains unexplained. Physical features are necessary, but not sufficient, for physical activity: residents must choose to use these features in health-promoting ways. This article reveals a role for local culture in tempering the effect of the physical environment on physical activity behaviors. Methods: We developed Systematic Cultural Observation (SCO) to observe place-based, health-related culture in Lenoir County, NC (population ~60,000). Photographs (N = 6450) were taken systematically from 150 most-used road segments and geocoded. Coders assessed physical activity (PA) opportunities (e.g., public or private activity spaces, pedestrian-friendly features) and presence of people in each photograph. Results: 28.7% of photographs contained some PA feature. Most were private or pedestrian; 3.1% contained public PA space. Only 1.5% of photographs with any PA features (2% of those with public PA space, 0.7% of those with private) depicted people despite appropriate weather and daylight conditions. Conclusions: Even when PA opportunities existed in this rural county, they were rarely used. This may be the result of culture ("unbuilt environment") that disfavors physical activity even in the presence of features that allow it. Policies promoting built environments designed for healthy lifestyles should consider local culture (shared styles, skills, habits, and beliefs) to maximize positive outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1227
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 5 2016

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Exercise
Geographic Mapping
Health
Weather
Habits
Obesity
Observation
Research
Population

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

The unbuilt environment : Culture moderates the built environment for physical activity. / Perrin, Andrew J.; Caren, Neal; Skinner, Asheley C.; Odulana, Adebowale; Perrin, Eliana M.

In: BMC Public Health, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1227, 05.12.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Perrin, Andrew J. ; Caren, Neal ; Skinner, Asheley C. ; Odulana, Adebowale ; Perrin, Eliana M. / The unbuilt environment : Culture moderates the built environment for physical activity. In: BMC Public Health. 2016 ; Vol. 16, No. 1.
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