Thesis: The physical environment as an influence of walking in the neighbourhood: objective measurement and validation
Over the last decade, there has been rapid growth in research into the influence of the physical environment on physical activity. Previously, individual and social factors dominated research into the influences of physical activity. This new area of study has been built on the understanding that the physical environment may create an opportunity or a barrier to engagement in physical activity behaviours (Sallis and Owen, 1997). This research develops objectively measured features of the physical environment in order to investigate relationships with walking behaviour. Public health research of this nature is still at a preliminary stage, although research expertise outside of public health including transportation, urban planning and geographic information science has much to contribute to this emerging field. This study investigated walking in the neighbourhood in a sample of adults residing in Perth, Western Australia. Objective measurement of the physical environment using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was conducted including measurement of street connectivity, residential density, land use mix and retail floor area ratio at three different geographic scales
Why my research is important
Walking as little as thirty minutes per day has been proven to have protective health effects against a number of chronic diseases. These include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some site specific cancers. A significant proportion of walking by people is done within close proximity to their homes, yet research into neighbourhood urban form that could influence walking has received little attention up until recently.
This research has the potential to inform public policy across a number of fields including urban planning, transport and public health. Identifying and examining the characteristics of highly walkable neighbourhoods can lead to the design and redesign of neighbourhoods making them healthier environments in which to live, work and spend leisure time.