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The aim of this study was to review the evidence to date on the association between physical activity and safety from crime.
Articles with adult populations of 500+ participants investigating the association between physical activity and safety from crime were included. A methodological quality assessment was conducted using an adapted version of the Downs and Black checklist.
The literature search identified 15,864 articles. After assessment of titles, abstracts and full-texts, 89 articles were included. Most articles (84.3%) were derived from high-income countries and only 3 prospective articles were identified. Articles presented high methodological quality. In 38 articles (42.7%), at least one statistically significant association in the expected direction was reported (ie, safety from crime was positively associated with physical activity). Nine articles (10.1%) found an association in the unexpected direction and 42 (47.2%) did not find statistically significant associations. The results did not change when we analyzed articles separately by sex, age, type of measurement, or domains of physical activity evaluated.
The current evidence, mostly based on cross-sectional studies, suggests a lack of association between physical activity and safety from crime. Prospective studies and natural experiments are needed, particularly in areas with wide crime variability.
da Silva, Payne, Varela, and Hallal are with the Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil. Hino is with the Dept of Physical Education, Pontific Catholic University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil. Reis is with the School of Health and Biosciences, Pontific Catholic University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil. Ekelund is with the Dept of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway.