Safer Neighborhoods Are Fitter Neighborhoods

Fear of crime curbs healthy physical activity, study finds

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SUNDAY, March 5, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Neighborhood crime, or the perception that their neighborhood is unsafe, can keep residents from the exercise they need, U.S. researchers report.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,700 men and women in Forsyth County, N.C., Jackson, Miss., and Winston-Salem, N.C., on their levels of physical activity, their perception of crime in their neighborhood, and their view of crime as a barrier to physical activity.

Respondents who believed they lived in a low-crime neighborhood were 30 percent to 50 percent more likely to meet the U.S. Surgeon General's recommendations for physical activity than people who believed they lived in a high-crime neighborhood.

The U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity daily or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three or more times a week.

The study also found:

  • About 19 percent of respondents cited crime or fear for personal safety as a barrier to physical activity;
  • People who did not perceive crime or fear for personal safety as a barrier to physical activity were about 40 percent more likely to meet physical activity recommendations;
  • There was no difference between men and women in terms of associations between levels of physical activity and perceptions of neighborhood crime or fear for personal safety.

The findings were presented Saturday at the American Heart Association's annual conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, in Phoenix.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about exercise.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 4, 2006

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