UBC Faculty Research and Publications

When physical activity meets the physical environment: precision health insights from the intersection Giles, Luisa V.; Koehle, Michael; Saelens, Brian E.; Sbihi, Hind; Carlsten, Chris


Background The physical environment can facilitate or hinder physical activity. A challenge in promoting physical activity is ensuring that the physical environment is supportive and that these supports are appropriately tailored to the individual or group in question. Ideally, aspects of the environment that impact physical activity would be enhanced, but environmental changes take time, and identifying ways to provide more precision to physical activity recommendations might be helpful for specific individuals or groups. Therefore, moving beyond a “one size fits all” to a precision-based approach is critical. Main body To this end, we considered 4 critical aspects of the physical environment that influence physical activity (walkability, green space, traffic-related air pollution, and heat) and how these aspects could enhance our ability to precisely guide physical activity. Strategies to increase physical activity could include optimizing design of the built environment or mitigating of some of the environmental impediments to activity through personalized or population-wide interventions. Conclusions Although at present non-personalized approaches may be more widespread than those tailored to one person’s physical environment, targeting intrinsic personal elements (e.g., medical conditions, sex, age, socioeconomic status) has interesting potential to enhance the likelihood and ability of individuals to participate in physical activity.

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