Neighborhood design, physical activity, and wellbeing: Applying the walkability model

Adriana A. Zuniga-Teran, Barron J. Orr, Randy H. Gimblett, Nader V. Chalfoun, David P. Guertin, Stuart E. Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Neighborhood design affects lifestyle physical activity, and ultimately human wellbeing. There are, however, a limited number of studies that examine neighborhood design types. In this research, we examine four types of neighborhood designs: traditional development, suburban development, enclosed community, and cluster housing development, and assess their level of walkability and their effects on physical activity and wellbeing. We examine significant associations through a questionnaire (n = 486) distributed in Tucson, Arizona using the Walkability Model. Among the tested neighborhood design types, traditional development showed significant associations and the highest value for walkability, as well as for each of the two types of walking (recreation and transportation) representing physical activity. Suburban development showed significant associations and the highest mean values for mental health and wellbeing. Cluster housing showed significant associations and the highest mean value for social interactions with neighbors and for perceived safety from crime. Enclosed community did not obtain the highest means for any wellbeing benefit. The Walkability Model proved useful in identifying the walkability categories associated with physical activity and perceived crime. For example, the experience category was strongly and inversely associated with perceived crime. This study provides empirical evidence of the importance of including vegetation, particularly trees, throughout neighborhoods in order to increase physical activity and wellbeing. Likewise, the results suggest that regular maintenance is an important strategy to improve mental health and overall wellbeing in cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number76
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 13 2017


  • Neighborhood design
  • Physical activity
  • Walkability
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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