Physical Activity Measures in the Healthy Communities Study

The risk of obesity is reduced when youth engage in recommended levels of physical. activity (PA). For that reason, public health organizations in the U.S. have encouraged communities to implement programs and policies designed to increase PA in youth, and many communities have taken on that challenge. However, the long-term effects of those programs and policies on obesity are largely unknown. The Healthy Communities Study is a large-scale observational study of U.S. communities that is examining the characteristics of programs and policies designed to promote healthy behaviors (e.g., increase PA and improve diet) and determining their association with obesity-related outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to describe the methods used to measure PA in children and the personal and community factors that may influence it. The study used both self-reported and objective measures of PA, and measured personal, family, and home influences on PA via three constructs: (1) PA self-schema; (2) parental support; and (3) parental rules regarding PA. Neighborhood and community factors related to PA were assessed using three measures: (1) child perceptions of the neighborhood environment; (2) availability of PA equipment; and (3) attributes of the child's street segment via direct observation. School influences on children's PA were assessed via three constructs: (1) school PA policies; (2) child perceptions of the school PA environment; and (3) school outdoor PA environment. These measures will enable examination of the associations between characteristics of community PA programs and policies and obesity-related outcomes in children and youth.