Built environment, physical activity, and obesity: What have we learned from reviewing the literature?

This study evaluated the growing literature on the built environment and physical activity and obesity by conducting a review of review papers. They analyzed research gaps and areas of improvement identified by previous reviews and propose a research agenda.

  • Through a systematic search, the authors identified 36 reviews that met the inclusion criteria; 26 focused on physical activity as the outcome, five on obesity, and five on both.
  • The reviews targeted youth, of which four separated adolescents from children, five reviews targeted adults, two seniors, one separately included youth and adults, and 17 reviews either combined all age groups or did not specify the age of the target population.
  • One review targeted African Americans, one focused on the disadvantaged (operationalized as low SES, black race, and Hispanic ethnicity), and one targeted rural adults.
  • Twenty reviews reported the measurement mode of built environmental attributes, only four stratified reviewed papers/associations based on objective and perceived measures. Five studies only focused on objectively assessed environments. Of the 31 reviews that included a physical activity outcome, nine reported the measurement mode of physical activity, and five stratified by measurement mode.
  • Ten reviews focused on reported physical activity outcomes only (e.g. active transportation, walking) therefore further stratification was not applicable. Of the ten reviews that included an obesity outcome, five reported measurement modes, only one stratified by measurement modes.

Ding, D. and K. Gebel (2011). "Built environment, physical activity, and obesity: What have we learned from reviewing the literature?" Health & Place 18(1): 100-105.

filed under