Moving to an Activity-Friendly Community Can Increase Physical Activity

Chanam Lee, Minjie Xu, Xuemei Zhu, Samuel D. Towne, Huiyan Sang, Hanwool Lee, Marcia G. Ory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Creating activity-friendly communities (AFCs) is an important strategy to increase physical activity (PA). While cross-sectional links between community environments and PA are well documented, their causal relationships remain insufficiently explored. Methods: Using the accelerometer and survey data collected from adults who moved to an AFC (cases) and similar non-AFC-residing adults who did not move (comparisons), this pre–post, case-comparison study examines if moving to an AFC increases PA. Data came from 115 participants (cases = 37, comparisons = 78) from Austin, Texas, who completed 2 waves of 1-weeklong data collection. Difference-in-difference analyses and fixed-effect models were used to test the significance of the pre–post differences in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) between cases and comparisons, for the full sample and the subsample of 37 pairs matched in key covariates using the Propensity Score Matching method. Results: Average treatment effect generated based on Propensity Score Matching and difference-in-difference showed that moving to this AFC led to an average of 10.88 additional minutes of daily MVPA (76.16 weekly minutes, P = .015). Fixed-effect models echoed the result with an increase of 10.39 minutes of daily MVPA after moving to the AFC. We also found that case participants who were less active at baseline and had higher income increased their MVPA more than their counterparts. Conclusions: This study showed that, among our study sample, moving to an AFC increased residents’ PA significantly when compared to their premove level and the comparison group. This causal evidence suggests the potential of AFCs as sustainable interventions for PA promotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1058-1066
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Activity and Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2023


  • Propensity Score Matching
  • average treatment effect
  • fixed-effect model
  • natural experiment
  • walkable community
  • Exercise
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Adult
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Epidemiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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