Associations of the perceived and objective neighborhood environment with physical activity and sedentary time in New Zealand adolescents
Background: There is accumulating evidence supporting the association between neighborhood built environments and adults’ physical activity (PA) and sedentary time (ST); however, few studies have investigated these associations in adolescents. A better understanding of the features of the built environment that encourage PA or ST is therefore of critical importance to promote health and wellbeing in adolescents. The aim of this study was to estimate the associations of GIS-determined and perceived walkability components in individual residential buffer zones with accelerometer-assessed moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and ST in adolescents. Methods: The Built Environment in Adolescent New Zealanders (BEANZ) study was conducted in two cities (Auckland and Wellington) during the 2013-2014 academic school years. The exposure measures were subjective and objective environmental indices of activity-friendliness using four residential buffers. Road network buffers were calculated around participant’s residential addresses using the sausage buffer approach at 250 m, 500 m, 1 km, and 2 km scales. A 25 m radius was used for the buffers. Data were analysed using Generalized Additive Mixed Models in R. Results: Data were analysed from 524 participants (15.78 ± 1.62 years; 45% male). Participants accumulated ~114 min/ day of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and ~354 min/day of ST during accelerometer wear-time (~828 min/day). The estimated difference in MVPA between participants with the 1st and 3rd quartiles observed values on the composite subjective environmental index of activity-friendliness (perceived land use mix - diversity, street connectivity and aesthetics) was equivalent to ~8 min/day (~56 MVPA min/week) and for the objective environmental index of activityfriendliness (gross residential density and number of parks within 2 km distance from home) was ~6 min of MVPA/day (~45 MVPA min/week). When both indices were entered in a main-effect model, both indices remained significantly correlated with MVPA with sex as a moderator. The predicted difference in sedentary time between those with the minimum and maximum observed values on the subjective index of non-sedentariness was ~20 min/day. Conclusions: The combined assessment of the main effects of subjective and objective indices of activity-friendliness on NZ adolescents’ PA and ST showed positive relationships with MVPA for the subjective index only. The subjective index was a significant correlate of PA in both girls and boys, while the objective index was significant only in boys when sex was entered as a moderator. Further research is warranted to understand the relationships of ST with the built environment.