Understanding environmental factors related to adolescents’ physical activity can inform intervention for obesity control and prevention, but virtually no study has been conducted in the African region, where adolescents’ physical inactivity and chronic diseases rates are rising. This study assessed associations between perceived built environmental variables and adolescents’ physical activity (active transportation to school and leisure-time moderate-to- vigorous physical activity), and the moderating effects of neighborhood-level income on association between environmental variables and physical activity among Nigerian boys and girls.
Participants were 1006 adolescents (12-19 years, 50.4% girls) randomly selected from 11 secondary schools in Maiduguri city, Nigeria. Physical activity and perceptions of environmental characteristics were assessed by validated self-report questionnaires. Separate gender-based, hierarchical multiple moderated linear regression analyses were used to examine the direct associations between the environmental perceptions and physical activity variables (active transportation and leisure-time MVPA; dependent variables), as well as the moderating effects of neighborhood-level income.
Only in boys were direct associations and interaction effect of neighborhood-level income found. Access to destinations was positively associated with active transportation to school (beta = 0.18; CI = 0.67, 2.24); while residential density (beta = 0.10; CI = 0.01, 1.74) and availability/quality of infrastructures (beta = 0.14; CI = 0.49, 2.68) were positively associated with leisure-time MVPA. Also, neighborhood-level income moderated the association between perceived safety and leisure-time MVPA, with more perceived safety related to less MVPA (beta = -0.16; CI = -0.01, -0.70) in boys living in high SES neighborhood but marginally related to more MVPA (beta = 0.11; CI = -0.04, 2.88, p = 0.06) in boys living in low SES neighborhood.
Few environmental attributes were associated with adolescents’ physical activity in Nigeria. Future studies are needed to determine the multidimensional correlates of physical activity that may be relevant for both adolescents’ boys and girls in Nigeria.