Built Environment and Physical Activity Among Young People

The built environment, composed of all the buildings, spaces, and products that have been created or modified by people, has undeniably an impact on our health and quality of life. This first issue of the TOPO collection documents, in a nutshell, the relation between the built environment and physical activity amoung young people. It addresses the following questions: "What opportunities provided by the built environment promote physical activity by young people?", "What characteristics of the built environment promote a physically active lifestyle among young people?", "What interventions addressing the built environment have been already implemented in Québec and elsewhere in the world?". The TOPO collection is produced by the multidisciplinary team on nutrition, physical activity, and weight-related problems prevention (Nutrition, activité physique et prévention des problèmes reliés au poids) at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec.

Numerous health benefits for young people are associated with regular physical activity. These benefits include better weight control, cardiovascular health, and school performance.(2) Young people have lots of opportunities to be physically active in their daily lives. Participating in organized sports activities, physical education classes in school, active transportation to and from school, and active outdoor play are good examples.

What incites young people to be on the move and seize opportunities to be physically active? Physical activity is affected by individual, socio-cultural, environmental, and political factors. As indicated in the largest circle in Hume’s model (Figure 1 on the following page), the built environment in various settings frequented by young people, i.e. their neighbourhood, school, or childcare setting, is an important determinant of physical activity.

Built Environment and Physical Activity Among Young People
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