This longitudinal study aimed to examine if a Movability Index (MI), based on objectively measured built environment characteristics, was a determinant for objectively measured physical activity (PA) among young adults.
Data collected from 177 persons participating in the Danish part of the European Youth Hearth Study (EYHS) was used to examine the effect of the built environment on PA. A MI was developed using objectively measured built environment characteristics, and included residential density, recreational facilities, daily destinations and street connectivity.
Results showed a positive cross-sectional association between MI and PA. PA decreased from baseline to follow-up. MI increased, primarily due to participants relocating to larger cities. An increase in MI from baseline to follow-up was associated with a reduced decrease in PA for females.
Our findings suggest that the built environment is a determinant for PA, especially for females. The found gender differences might suggest the need to develop gender specific environmental indices in future studies. The validity of the measures can be further improved by creating domain specific PA measures as well as domain specific environmental indices and this can potentially reveal more specific built environment determinants for PA.