Associations between neighborhood walkability and walking following residential relocation: Findings from Alberta's Tomorrow Project

Gavin R. McCormack, Mohammad Javad Koohsari, Jennifer E. Vena, Koichiro Oka, Tomoki Nakaya, Jonathan Chapman, Ryan Martinson, Graham Matsalla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Cross-sectional studies consistently find that the neighborhood built environment (e.g., walkability) is associated with walking. However, findings from the few existing longitudinal residential relocation studies that have estimated associations between changes in neighborhood built characteristics and walking are equivocal. The study objective was to estimate whether changes in neighborhood walkability resulting from residential relocation were associated with leisure, transportation, and total walking levels among adults. Methods: This study included longitudinal data from the “Alberta's Tomorrow Project”—a province-wide cohort study (Alberta, Canada). The analysis included data collected at two time points (i.e., baseline and follow-up) from 5,977 urban adults. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) captured self-reported walking. We estimated neighborhood walkability, an index capturing intersection, destination, and population counts for the 400 m Euclidean buffer around participants' homes. Using household postal codes reported at baseline and follow-up, we categorized participants into three groups reflecting residential relocation (“non-movers:” n = 5,679; “movers to less walkability:” n = 164, and; “movers to more walkability:” n = 134). We used Inverse-Probability-Weighted Regression Adjustment to estimate differences [i.e., average treatment effects in the treated (ATET)] in weekly minutes of leisure, transportation, and total walking at follow-up between residential relocation groups, adjusting for baseline walking, sociodemographic characteristics, and walkability. The median time between baseline and follow-up was 2-years. Results: The three residential relocation groups mainly included women (61.6–67.2%) and had a mean age of between 52.2 and 55.7 years. Compared to “non-movers” (reference group), weekly minutes of transportation walking at follow-up was significantly lower among adults who moved to less walkable neighborhoods (ATET: −41.34, 95 CI: −68.30, −14.39; p < 0.01). We found no other statistically significant differences in walking between the groups. Discussion: Our findings suggest that relocating to less walkable neighborhoods could have detrimental effects on transportation walking to the extent of adversely affecting health. Public health strategies that counteract the negative impacts of low walkable neighborhoods and leverage the supportiveness of high walkable neighborhoods might promote more walking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1116691
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan 16


  • built environment
  • longitudinal
  • physical activity
  • urban design
  • urban form

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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