Twin Cities Walking Study

The Twin Cities Walking Study explored the relationship between the built environment, walking, and overall physical activity. It focused on 36 sites of 805*805 meters (0.5*0.5 miles) in Saint Paul, Minnesota and the state’s I-35W Corridor Coalition, where particularly good GIS data were available. The sites varied greatly by street pattern and density.

We measured physical and social characteristics of the areas using existing GIS and some new observations. The team also had a total of 718 people living in the areas answer surveys, keep a seven-day travel diary, and wear a small and very accurate accelerometer that measures movement and physical activity over a seven-day period. The study team analyzed how much of a difference the environment makes, controlling statistically for a large number of factors. The study found certain environmental features were associated with travel walking and leisure walking, but not with overall physical activity. Papers explaining these methods and results are listed below.

Principal Investigator Ann Forsyth, with Co-PIs Kathryn Schmitz and J. Michael Oakes of Public Health.

Additional collaborators or advisors included faculty from three other universities.

  • Members of the grant’s Transportation Expert Panel: Dr. Sandra Rosenbloom, University of Arizona; Dr. Jonathan Levine, University of Michigan; and Dr. Kevin Krizek, University of Minnesota.
  • A group from University of California (UC) Irvine collaborating to produce the Irvine-Minnesota Urban Design Inventory. This inventory design was led by Dr. Marlon Boarnet and Dr. Kristen Day of UC Irvine. The Irvine team developed the draft inventory and the Minnesota team refined it.

The study was funded through the Active Living Research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,

Publications of the Twin Cities Walking Study:

  • Environment and Physical Activity GIS Protocols Manual
  • Irvine Minnesota Inventory: This urban design inventory was developed by a team led by UC-Irvine researchers (see above) with contributions from the Twin Cities Walking Study. The basic materials are now online and an overall assessment is being revised for publication.
  • Twin Cities Walking Survey: A compilation of measures from a variety of sources to measure quality of life, perceptions of neighborhood environment, physical activity, psychosocial predictors of physical activity, demographics, and pedestrian and bicycle safety.
  • Ann Forsyth, Kathryn H. Schmitz, J. Michael Oakes, Jason Zimmerman, and Joel Koepp. 2006. Standards for Environmental Measurement using GIS: Toward a Protocol for Protocols. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 3, S1:241-s257. (340 KB)
  • Kristen Day, Marlon Boarnet, Mariela Alfonzo, and Ann Forsyth. 2006. The Irvine Minnesota Inventory to Measure Built Environments: Development. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 30, 2:144-52.
  • Kristen Day, Marlon Boarnet, Mariela Alfonzo, Ann Forsyth, and J. Michael Oakes. 2006. The Irvine Minnesota Inventory to Measure Built Environments: Reliability Tests.American Journal of Preventive Medicine 30, 2:153-259.
  • Ann Forsyth, J. Michael Oakes, Kathryn H. Schmitz, and Mary Hearst. 2007. Does Residential Density Increase Walking and Other Physical Activity? Urban Studies 44, 4.
    Note: In table two of this published paper the row heading IPAQ total physical activity (in Met minutes per week) should be IPAQ total physical activity (in Met minutes perday).
  • J. Michael Oakes, Ann Forsyth, and Kathryn H. Schmitz. 2007. The Effect of Neighborhood Density and Street Connectivity on Walking Behavior: The Twin Cities Walking Study. Epidemiologic Perspectives and Innovations 4, 16:
  • Ann Forsyth, Mary Hearst, J. Michael Oakes, and M. Kathryn Schmitz. 2008. Design and Destinations: Factors Influencing Walking and Total Physical Activity. Urban Studies 45, 9:1973-96.
  • Ann Forsyth, J. Michael Oakes, and Kathryn H. Schmitz. 2009. Test-Retest Reliability of the Twin Cities Walking Survey. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 6, 1: 119-131.
  • Daniel Rodriguez, Semra Aytur, Ann Forsyth, J. Michael Oakes, and Kelly Clifton. 2008. Relation of Modifiable Neighborhood Attributes to Walking. Preventive Medicine 47: 260-264.
  • J.M. Oakes, A. Forsyth, M. Hearst, and K. H. Schmitz. 2009. Recruiting a Representative Sample for Neighborhood Effects Research: Strategies and Outcomes of the Twin Cities Walking Study. Environment and Behavior 41, 6: 787-805.
  • Ann Forsyth, J. Michael Oakes, Brian Lee, and Kathryn H. Schmitz. 2009., The Built Environment, Walking, and Physical Activity: Is the Environment More Important to Some People than Others? Transportation Research Part D 14: 42-49.
  • 2011     J. Sirard, A. Forsyth, J.M. Oakes, K. H. Schmitz. Accelerometer Test-Retest Reliability by Data Processing Algorithms: Results from the Twin Cities Walking Study. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 8: 668-674.
  • Forthcoming, K. McDonald, J.M. Oakes, A. Forsyth. The Built Environment and BMI: Results from the Twin Cities Walking Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Map of Study Areas (868 KB)

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