The built environment and physical activity participation in a semi–urban area in Southern Gauteng
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Public health researchers over the years have drawn the attention to the effects of community environments on health conditions such as physical inactivity. Physical inactivity has been reported to be the second leading risk factor for chronic diseases after smoking and contributes significantly to total mortality. A review of literature suggests that the built environment can either facilitate or constrain physical activity participation. The purpose of the study was to examine the influence of the physical environment on physical activity participation among semi-urban residents. A structured questionnaire assessing physical activity participation and the built environment was administered to 148 respondents in a semi-urban township in the Southern part of the Gauteng province, South Africa. A descriptive analysis of the sample was undertaken, followed by the calculation of participants' body mass index (BMI), classification of physical activity and the mean ranking of various environmental factors. Results indicate that respondents' physical activity participation ranged from mild to moderate with majority of the respondents not meeting the minimum physical activity guidelines (30 minutes or more a day, most days of the week of at least moderate physical activity). In addition, the results indicate that the built environment or the lack thereof play an influential role in physical activity participation. Perceived access to various destinations, street planning in the neighbourhood, places for walking and cycling, neighbourhood surroundings, safety from traffic and safety from crime seem to prohibit residents from participation in physical activity. Government, policy makers and environmental planners need to take cognisance of future planning in the development of user-friendly environments so that residents can meaningfully participate in physical activity.