Neighborhoods can be an important feature of the built environment influencing physical activity; however, neighborhood poverty and violence may pose significant barriers for youth physical activity. We conducted a community survey of 107 households with youth 3–12 years of age in select neighborhoods of the city of Newark, New Jersey, a highly impoverished and racially/ethnically segregated city of the United States.
The majority of sampled households did not have access to a park, and nearly 60% of youth were not engaged in a team or organized physical activity program. Hearing gunshots and seeing drug deals in the neighborhood were reported by 74% and 56%, respectively, of study participants. In adjusted regression models, a 1-unit increase in self-reported neighborhood safety was associated with perceptions that parks were safe for youth to use (OR = 1.7, CI = 1.3, 2.3) and increased odds of youth using parks (OR = 1.3, CI = 1.0, 1.6). Self-reported neighborhood violence was marginally associated with lower levels of Metabolic Equivalent (MET)-min/week of moderate PA (β = –54.25, P = .05).
To ensure national goals of increased physical activity and use of outdoor spaces, addressing the neighborhood contexts under which the most vulnerable of our youth live will be required.