Creating Places that Promote Physical Activity: Perceiving is Believing

Perceptions about safety and aesthetics of the neighborhood environment can influence physical activity in children and adults.

  • Parents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety influence child physical activity.
  • Aesthetics were an important part of the environment valued across socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, attitudes, and other socio-cultural characteristics. However, adults and children may rate perceptions of their environment differently.
  • Research generally finds that aesthetics and perceived safety from crime or traffic are the most important attributes for attracting people to a place.
  • Perceived safety from traffic is associated with sidewalks and pedestrian infrastructure, street connectivity, clearly marked street crossings, traffic controls, and lower traffic speed and volume.
  • Perceived safety from crime is generally characterized by order and upkeep, open lines of sight, lighting, and presence of people to provide help.
  • Recreational areas are more attractive for physical activity when they have play equipment or seating.
  • This research brief reviewed evidence on the relationship between participation in physical activity and perceived safety, comfort, and aesthetics in neighborhoods, streets, and parks.

Nasar, J.L. (2015). Creating places that promote physical activity: Perceiving is believing. [Research brief.] Active Living Research.

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