News Release

Children in low-income neighborhood with special walking/bike trail exercised more

American Heart Association meeting report

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Heart Association

Children living in a neighborhood designed with a special bike trail were three times as likely as those in a traditional neighborhood to engage in vigorous physical activity, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions.

Researchers compared two low-income neighborhoods in Chattanooga, Tenn. One had a "new urbanist construction" that features a specially-designed, two-mile, extra-wide trail/sidewalk for biking and walking that winds from new public housing and single-family residences to a school, library, recreational facility, park and retail shops. The other area has traditional homes, public housing, a new school, park and an older, regular-width sidewalk.

"There was more vigorous activity in the park and along the trail," said Gregory W. Heath, D.H.Sc., M.P.H., the study's lead author and assistant provost for research and engagement at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the UT College of Medicine. "There was more jogging or bike riding, which makes sense because the urban trail was made for that."

In previous studies on this type of community feature, researchers focused mostly on suburban or upper-income neighborhoods, Heath said.

"Infrastructural changes like these are expensive," said Heath, who is also professor of health and human performance and medicine. "But quite frankly in the long run, they're worth it."


Co-author is S. White-Woerner, B.S. Author disclosures are on the abstracts. The Middle Tennessee State University Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth funded the study.

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at

NR12-1048 (Epi/NPAM 2012/Heath)

Note: Actual presentation is 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Additional Resources:

  • To learn more about physical activity and children, visit: American Heart Association physical activity and children.
  • Also visit American Heart Association Healthier Kids.

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