Investigating the Relationship between Structural Features of Built Environment and Physical Activity using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Pardis Noormohammadpour, Ehsan Ghadimi, Amirhossein Memari, Maryam Selk‑Ghaffari, Mohammad Ali Mansournia, Ramin Kordi


Background: Built environment determinants of engaging in physical activity are dependent on the properties of societies. This study investigates the relationship between structural variables of the environment using geographic information systems (GIS) and the level of physical activity in 22 districts of Tehran. Methods: This cross‑sectional study was based on Urban Health Equity Assessment and Response Tool (Urban HEART‑2). Physical activity level was assessed via the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ). The characteristics of the neighborhood environment, including land use, street pattern, population density, and traffic, were determined via ArcGIS software. Walkability index (population density, street pattern, land use) was calculated to assess the effect of the main variables of living environment on physical activity level. Results: Among the built environmental variables, land use was associated with the total physical activity and travel‑related physical activity level (r: 0.155, P value: 0.001, and r: 0.122, P value: 0.007, respectively). The walkability index indicated an association with the total physical activity level and travel‑related physical activity level (r: 0.126, P value: 0.006, and r: 0.135, P value: 0.001, respectively). Higher levels of the walkability index were associated with an improved level of physical activity (OR: 2.04). Conclusions: Walkability index and land use positively correlate with total physical activity level, and providing action plans that improve walkability index and land use might lead to increased physical activity level.


Built environmental; exercise; land use; physical activity; traffic; walkability index


Guthold R, Stevens GA, Riley LM, Bull FC. Worldwide trends

in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: A pooled

analysis of 358 population‑based surveys with 1· 9 million

participants. Lancet Glob Health 2018;6:e1077‑e86.

Mohebi F, Mohajer B, Yoosefi M, Sheidaei A, Zokaei H,

Damerchilu B, et al. Physical activity profile of the Iranian

population: STEPS survey, 2016. BMC Public Health


Kamalian A, Khosravi Shadmani F, Yoosefi M, Mohajer B,

Mohebi F, Naderimagham S, et al. A national and sub‑national

metaregression of the trend of insufficient physical activity

among Iranian adults between 2001 and 2016. Sci Rep


Khosravi A, Hassanmirzaei B, Selk‑Ghaffari M, Rafiei M,

Mansournia MA, Kordi R. Why physical inactivity level has

increased in the Iranian population during the past decade? A

Delphi technique. Asian J Sports Med 2020;11:e103678.

Sallis JF, Cerin E, Conway TL, Adams MA, Frank LD, Pratt M,

et al. Physical activity in relation to urban environments

in 14 cities worldwide: A cross‑sectional study. Lancet


Frank LD, Schmid TL, Sallis JF, Chapman J, Saelens BE.

Linking objectively measured physical activity with objectively

measured urban form: Findings from SMARTRAQ. Am J Prev

Med 2005;28:117‑25.

Smith M, Hosking J, Woodward A, Witten K, MacMillan A,

Field A, et al. Systematic literature review of built environment

effects on physical activity and active transport–an update

and new findings on health equity. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act


Pikora TJ, Bull FC, Jamrozik K, Knuiman M, Giles‑Corti B,

Donovan RJ. Developing a reliable audit instrument to measure

the physical environment for physical activity. Am J Prev Med


Memari A‑H, Selk‑Ghaffari M, Khosravi A, Kordi R. Action

plan to increase physical activity during COVID‑19 pandemic.

Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J 2021;21:514‑6.

Soltani A, Hoseini SH. An analysis of the connection between

built environment, physical activity and health: Comparing

three urban neighbourhoods from Shiraz, Iran. Int J Urban Sci


Asadi‑Lari M, Vaez‑Mahdavi MR, Faghihzadeh S, Cherghian B,

Esteghamati A, Farshad AA, et al. Response‑oriented measuring

inequalities in Tehran: Second round of UrbanHealth Equity

Assessment and Response Tool (Urban HEART‑2), concepts and

framework. Med J Islam Repub Iran 2013;27:236.

Bull FC, Maslin TS, Armstrong T. Global physical activity

questionnaire (GPAQ): Nine country reliability and validity

study. J Phys Act Health 2009;6:790‑804.

Esteghamati A, Meysamie A, Khalilzadeh O, Rashidi A,

Haghazali M, Asgari F, et al. Third national surveillance of risk

factors of non‑communicable diseases (SuRFNCD‑2007) in Iran:

Methods and results on prevalence of diabetes, hypertension,

obesity, central obesity, and dyslipidemia. BMC Public Health


Sahebkar M, Heidarian Miri H, Noormohammadpour P,

Akrami R, Mansournia N, Tavana B, et al. Prevalence and

correlates of low physical activity in the Iranian population:

National survey on non‐communicable diseases in 2011. Scand J

Med Sci Sports 2018;28:1916‑24.

Noormohammadpour P, Mansournia MA, Koohpayehzadeh J,

Asgari F, Rostami M, Rafei A, et al. Prevalence of chronic neck pain, low back pain, and knee pain and their related

factors in community‑dwelling adults in Iran. Clin J Pain


Grasser G, Van Dyck D, Titze S, Stronegger W. Objectively

measured walkability and active transport and weight‑related

outcomes in adults: A systematic review. Int J Public Health


Saelens BE, Sallis JF, Frank LD. Environmental correlates

of walking and cycling: Findings from the transportation,

urban design, and planning literatures. Ann Behav Med


Saelens BE, Handy SL. Built environment correlates of walking:

A review. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008;40:S550.

Ewing R, Cervero R. Travel and the built environment:

A meta‑analysis. J Am Plann Assoc 2010;76:265‑94.

Troped PJ, Wilson JS, Matthews CE, Cromley EK, Melly SJ.

The built environment and location‑based physical activity. Am

J Prev Med 2010;38:429‑38.

Loh VHY, Veitch J, Salmon J, Cerin E, Thornton L, Mavoa S,

et al. Built environment and physical activity among adolescents:

The moderating effects of neighborhood safety and social

support. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2019;16:132.

Kelishadi R, Ziaee V, Ardalan G, Namazi A,

Noormohammadpour P, Ghayour‑Mobarhan M, et al. A national

experience on physical activity initiatives for adolescent girls

and their mothers: CASPIAN study. Iran J Pediatr 2010;20:420.

Noormohammadpour P, Taee F, Selk‑Ghaffari M, Taee F,

Mansournia MA, Kordi R. Effectiveness of an individualized

internet‑based physical activity program: A randomized

controlled trial. Eur J Integr Med 2021;45:101356.