We recently published a paper in the Journal of Urban Health, led by BEH alum Tanya Kaufman and frequent BEH collaborator Jana A. Hirsch, which found that individuals living near more commercial physical activity facilities (e.g. health club, tennis club, martial arts school, dance studio) were more likely to report having a membership at a gym or recreational facility. Additionally, while amount of facilities within a neighborhood was associated with more measured physical activity, this association was stronger for individuals who reported having a gym membership.
This study used the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s “New York City Physical Activity and Transit (PAT)” survey data. We evaluated associations between counts of commercial physical activity facilities (from the National Establishment Time Series database) within 1 km of participants’ home addresses with both facility membership and accelerometry-measured physical activity.
Often efforts to increase physical activity have focused on either individuals (e.g., educational campaigns) or neighborhoods (e.g., access to additional recreational facilities). Little work looks at the interaction between spatial proximity (having a facility nearby) and individual characteristics that could be related to facility use. Our study findings suggest that interventions aiming to increase physical activity should consider both neighborhood amenities and potential barriers, including the financial and social barriers of membership to the neighborhood amenities. Similarly, evaluation of neighborhood opportunities should expand beyond physical presence to consider other factors that make an amenity accessible to different populations.