Perceived versus actual distance to local physical-activity facilities: Does it really matter?

Ralph Maddison*, Yannan Jiang, Steve Vander Hoorn, Cliona Ni Mhurchu, Daniel Exeter, Jennifer Utter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Research in adults shows poor agreement between self-reported and objectively measured proximity to physical activity resources; however there is little such research in adolescents. This study assessed the level of agreement between self-reported and objective measures of distance to physical activity resources in adolescents; and whether perceived or actual distance was related to actual use and physical activity levels.

Methods: 110 New Zealand high school students (12-18 years) were asked the time (in minutes) it would take them to walk from their home to the nearest physical activity resource, and whether they had used it in the previous month. The distance from participants' homes to the nearest resource was measured using GIS. Physical activity was assessed with accelerometers. 

Results: Agreement was poor, with weighted Kappa Indices ranging from 0.1 to 0.4. The facilities used most frequently were schools (90%), public parks (76%), and playing fields (74%). Closer location was associated with higher use of some facilities only. Moderate-to-vigorous activity levels were not associated with self-reported or measured distance. 

Conclusions: Agreement between perceived and measured access is poor among adolescents. Further research is needed to understand how individual and social factors interact with environmental factors and whether improving awareness improves use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-332
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Activity and Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


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