Mapping the development of research on physical activity and the built environment

Jenine K. Harris, Jesse Lecy, J. Aaron Hipp, Ross C. Brownson, Diana C. Parra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Objective: The importance of the built environment for physical activity has been recognized in recent decades, resulting in new research. This study aims to understand the current structure of physical activity and built environment (PABE) research and identify gaps to address as the field continues to rapidly develop. Methods: Key PABE articles were nominated by top scholars and a snowball sample of 2764 articles was collected in 2013 using citation network links. Article abstracts were examined to determine research focus and network analysis was used to examine the evolution of scholarship. Results: The network included 318 PABE articles. Of these, 191 were discovery-focused, examining the relationship between physical activity and built environment; 79 were reviews summarizing previous PABE work; 38 focused on theory and methods for studying PABE; six were delivery-focused, examining PABE interventions; and four addressed other topics. Conclusions: Network composition suggested that PABE is in the discovery phase, although may be transitioning given the large number and central position of review documents that summarize existing literature. The small amount of delivery research was not well integrated into the field. PABE delivery researchers may wish to make explicit connections to the discovery literature in order to better integrate the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-540
Number of pages8
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Built environment
  • Network analysis
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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