Newly published research on how where we live affects why we walk

Does our neighbourhood affect why we walk? An Australian research team, led by Dr. Billie Giles-Corti, addressed this (and a few other) questions in a four-year natural experiment. Their recently published year one results investigated the impact of the built environment on walking for transport (i.e. to a destination such as a store or work) and recreation (i.e. for pleasure, health, or fitness).

Photo by Sandra Chung

Photo by Sandra Chung

1437 adults reported their walking behaviors before and after moving to new housing developments across metropolitan Perth. The study found that the influence of built environment features on behavior depended on participants’ reasons for walking. Specifically, increases in transport-related walking were related to improved access to transport-related destinations like post offices, bus stops, shopping centres, etc., as well as participants’ perceptions of favorable changes to transport-related neighbourhood features. For example, having footpaths on most streets and safe walking areas. On the other hand, changes in participants’ attitudes and enjoyment towards walking in their new neighbourhood largely accounted for changes in time spent in recreational walking. These findings highlight the fact that how much individuals walk is influenced by the interplay between neighbourhood design, individuals’ perceptions of their neighbourhood, and their feelings towards and reasons for walking.

 Dr. Billie Giles-Corti is the keynote speaker at the Walk the Talk and ASAP Symposium in early November 2013. Stay tuned for more details about the symposium!

The influence of urban design on neighbourhood walking following residential relocation: Longitudinal results from the RESIDE, by Dr. Billie Giles-Corti et. al, was published in Social Science and Medicine. Volume 77, pages 20-30.

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By Anna Chudyk, PhD Candidate

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