2013 - Research

Smart Growth Community Design and Physical Activity in Children

The purpose of the study was to assess whether living in a smart growth community was associated with increased neighborhood-centered leisure-time physical activity in children aged 8–14 years, compared to residing in a conventional community (i.e., one not designed according to smart growth principles).

  • Researchers examined linkages between community design and physical activity. They defined a “smart growth” community as one containing features likely to promote active living (walkability, green space, mixed land use).
  • The purpose of the study was to assess whether living in a smart growth community was associated with increased neighborhood-centered leisure-time physical activity in children aged 8–14 years, compared to residing in a conventional community (i.e., one not designed according to smart growth principles).
  • Participants were recruited from a smart growth community, “The Preserve,” located in Chino, California, and eight conventional communities within a 30-minute drive of The Preserve. The analytic sample included 147 children. During 2009–2010, each child carried an accelerometer and a GPS for 7 days to ascertain physical activity and location information. Negative binomial models were used to assess the association between residence in the smart growth community and physical activity. Analyses were conducted in 2012.
  • Results:  Smart growth community residence was associated with a 46% increase in the proportion of neighborhood moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) as compared to conventional community residence. This analysis included neighborhood activity data collected during the school season and outside of school hours and home. Counterfactual simulations with model parameters suggested that smart growth community residence could add 10 minutes per day of neighborhood MVPA.
  • Conclusions:  Living in a smart growth community may increase local physical activity in children as compared to residence in conventionally designed communities.

Jerrett, M, PhD, Almanza, E., MPH, Davies, M., MS, Wolch, J., PhD, Dunton, G., PhD, Spruitj-Metz, D., PhD, Pentz, M.A., PhD. (2013). Smart Growth Community Design and Physical Activity in Children. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 45(4), 386-392.