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Urban Moveability and physical activity in children: longitudinal results from the IDEFICS and I.Family cohort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Christoph Buck
  • Gabriele Eiben
  • Fabio Lauria
  • Kenn Konstabel
  • Angie Page
  • Wolfgang Ahrens
  • Iris Pigeot
Original languageEnglish
Article number128 (2019)
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
DateAccepted/In press - 15 Nov 2019
DatePublished (current) - 11 Dec 2019


Physical activity (PA) is one of the major protective behaviours to prevent non-communicable diseases. Positive effects of the built environment on PA are well investigated, although evidence of this association is mostly based on cross-sectional studies. The present study aims to investigate the longitudinal effects of built environment characteristics in terms of a moveability index on PA of children in their transition phase to adolescence using data of the IDEFICS/I.Family cohort.

We used data on 3,394 accelerometer measurements of 2,488 children and adolescents aged 3 to 15 years old from survey centres of three countries, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, who participated in up to three surveys over six years. In network-dependent home neighbourhoods, a moveability index was calculated based on residential density, land use mix, street connectivity, availability of public transport and public open spaces such as green spaces and public playgrounds in order to quantify opportunities for PA of children and adolescents. Linear trajectories of light PA (LPA) and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) were estimated using linear mixed models accounting for repeated measurements nested within individuals. Least squares means were estimated to quantify differences in trajectories over age.

LPA and MVPA declined annually with age by approximately 20 min/day and 2 min/day respectively. In girls, the moveability index showed a consistent significantly positive effect on MVPA (β ̂= 2.14, 95%CI: (0.11; 4.16)) for all ages, while in boys the index significantly lessened the decline in LPA with age for each year. (β ̂= 2.68, 95%CI: (0.46; 4.90)).
Availability of public open spaces was more relevant for MVPA in girls and LPA in boys during childhood, whereas in adolescence, residential density and intersection density became more important.

Built environment characteristics are important determinants of PA and were found to have a supportive effect that ameliorates the decline in PA during the transition phase from childhood to adolescence. In childhood environmental support for leisure time PA through public open spaces was found to be the most protective factor whereas in adolescence the positive influence of street connectivity and residential density was most supportive of physical activity.

    Research areas

  • accelerometer, Built environment, childhood obesity, European children's cohort, Physical activity, walkability

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    Licence: CC BY


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