Self-reported and objectively-determined neighborhood built characteristics are associated with physical activity, yet little is known about their combined influence on walking. This study: 1) compared self-reported measures of the neighborhood built environment between objectively-determined low, medium, and high walkable neighborhoods; 2) estimated the relative associations between self-reported and objectively-determined neighborhood characteristics and walking and; 3) examined the extent to which the objectively-determined built environment moderates the association between self-reported measures of the neighborhood built environment and walking.
A random cross-section of 1875 Canadian adults completed a telephone-interview and postal questionnaire capturing neighborhood walkability, neighborhood-based walking, socio-demographic characteristics, walking attitudes, and residential self-selection. Walkability of each respondent’s neighborhood was objectively-determined (low [LW], medium [MW], and high walkable [HW]). Covariate-adjusted regression models estimated the associations between weekly participation and duration in transportation and recreational walking and self-reported and objectively-determined walkability.
Compared with objectively-determined LW neighborhoods, respondents in HW neighborhoods positively perceived access to services, street connectivity, pedestrian infrastructure, and utilitarian and recreation destination mix, but negatively perceived motor vehicle traffic and crime related safety. Compared with residents of objectively-determined LW neighborhoods, residents of HW neighborhoods were more likely (p < .05) to participate in (odds ratio[OR] = 3.06), and spend more time, per week (193 min/wk) transportation walking. Perceived access to services, street connectivity, motor vehicle safety, and mix of recreational destinations were also significantly associated with transportation walking. With regard to interactions, HW x utilitarian destination mix was positively associated with participation, HW x physical barriers and MW x pedestrian infrastructure were positively associated with minutes, and HW x safety from crime was negatively associated with minutes, of transportation walking. Neither neighborhood type nor its interactions with perceived measures of walkability were associated with recreational walking, although perceived aesthetics was associated with participation (OR = 1.18, p < .05).
Objectively-determined and self-reported built characteristics are associated with neighborhood-based transportation walking. The objectively-determined built environment might moderate associations between perceptions of walkability and neighborhood-based transportation walking. Interventions that target perceptions in addition to modifications to the neighborhood built environment could result in increases in physical activity among adults.