The association between residential density and physical activity among urban adults in regional China

Zhiyong Wang, Zhenzhen Qin, Jing He, Yuyang Ma, Qing Ye, Yaqing Xiong*, Fei Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Studies from Western countries reported a positive relationship between residential density (RD) and physical activity (PA) among adults. There was no such study from China, a rapidly-urbanizing country in the world. This study aimed to investigate the RD-PA association among urban adults in China. Methods: A multistage sampling approach was used to randomly select participants (aged 35-74 years old) in urban areas of Nanjing in 2017. The outcome variable was PA (dichotomized into "sufficient" or "insufficient"), while the independent variable was RD (tertiled into three sub-groups). Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were computed to examine the RD-PA association using mixed-effects logistic regression models with adjustment for age, sex, nationality, marriage, educational attainment, employment status, body weight status, green space and neighborhood-level clustering effects. Results: Of the 1568 eligible participants, 1551 were interviewed (response rate = 98.9%), with the mean age (standard deviation) of 54.7 (11.1) years old, and 46% of men. After adjustment for potential confounders and community-level clustering effects, participants lived in communities with higher (OR = 0.31, 95% CI = 0.21, 0.47) and middle (OR = 0.70, 95% CI = 0.50, 0.99) residential density were significantly less likely to achieve sufficient physical activity relative to their counterparts lived in the lower densed communities. Similar negative RD-PA association was examined for men or women, separately. The difference in the ORs between the middle and higher RD tertiles was also statistically significant (P < 0.01). Conclusions: A negatively gradient RD-PA association, independent of body weight status and green space, was observed among urban adults in regional China. It has public health implications for China to help residents' promote and maintain physical activity through planning and constructing PA-/health-friendly built environment in future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1279
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2019


  • Adults
  • Built environment
  • China
  • Physical activity
  • Residential density


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