Built environmental correlates of physical activity in China: A review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: China faces growing levels of physical inactivity and obesity, associated with increasing urbanization and changing lifestyles in recent years. China is expanding its cities to accommodate a growing urban population. This paper identifies built environment factors that are associated with physical activity in China. Findings can inform urban design and development in China to support increased physical activity. Methods: This paper is modeled on a review of built environment correlates of walking by Saelens and Handy (2008). Saelens and Handy reviewed research in developed countries. The present paper reviews 42 empirical studies that were conducted in China and were published between 2006 and 2014. Results: Results discuss the association of built environment features and physical activity for transportation, recreation and work. Studies focus on adults and on major cities. Data on the built environment is typically self-reported. Strongest evidence was found for the positive association of physical activity with proximal non-residential locations, pedestrian infrastructure, aesthetics, and non-park physical activity facilities, and for the negative association of physical activity with urban residence. In terms of physical activity for transportation, evidence is strongest for associations between physical activity for transportation and proximal non-residential locations. Conclusion: More research is needed on the built environment and physical activity, especially including research on significant features of Chinese cities, such as air pollution, high density levels, traffic safety, and others. Research on associations between built environment features and physical activity should consider the specific social and built environment contexts of Chinese cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-316
Number of pages14
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • China
  • Environment
  • Physical activity
  • Recreation
  • Transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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