The street level built environment and physical activity and walking: Results of a predictive validity study for the Irvine Minnesota Inventory

Boarnet, M. G., Forsyth, A., Day, K., & Oakes, J. M.

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Boarnet, M. G., Forsyth, A., Day, K., & Oakes, J. M. (2011). The street level built environment and physical activity and walking: Results of a predictive validity study for the Irvine Minnesota Inventory. Environment and Behavior, 43(6), 735–775.

Built Environment , Physical Activity , Walkability , Walking

The Irvine Minnesota Inventory (IMI) was designed to measure environ- mental features that may be associated with physical activity and particularly walking. This study assesses how well the IMI predicts physical activity and walking behavior and develops shortened, validated audit tools. A version of the IMI was used in the Twin Cities Walking Study, a research project measuring how density, street pattern, mixed use, pedestrian infrastructure, and a variety of social and economic factors affect walking. Both bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to assess the predictive value of the IMI. We find that while this inventory provides reliable measurement of urban design features, only some of these features present associations with increased or decreased walking. This article presents two versions of shortened scales—a prudent scale, requiring association with two separate measures of a physical activity or walking behavior, and a moderate scale, requiring association with one measure of physical activity or walking. The shortened scales provide built environment audit instruments that have been tested both for inter- rater reliability and for associations with physical activity and walking. The results are also useful in showing which built environment variables are more reliably associated with walking for travel—characteristics of the sidewalk infrastructure, street crossings and traffic speeds, and land use are more strongly associated with walking for travel, while factors that measure aesthetics are typically less strongly associated with walking for travel.

Main finding
A common toolkit for assessing environmental features of neighborhoods in relation to physical activity (such as walkability) is the Irvine Minnesota Inventory (IMI). This study is designed to assess the IMI as a predictor of physical activity. While the IMI does help measure urban design features, only some elements of the inventory are associated with differences in walking. The study finds that IMI variables associated with physical activity are generally infrastructure (e.g., traffic signals, crossings, etc.), driving environment regulations (e.g., speed limits), destinations (e.g., plazas, playing fields), and design elements (e.g., parking, driveways), while aesthetic attributes are not strongly linked.

Description of method used in the article
Application of the Irvine Minnesota Inventory (IMI) environmental inventory across 891 street segments in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2004. IMI inventories were conducted by two students in a random sample of 20% of the pool of participant “focus areas.” These results were compared with responses from participants (N = 716) based on (a) total activity in a 7-day period as measured by accelerometer, (b) the International Physical Activity Questionnaire Long Form (IPAQ), and (c) a 7-day travel diary. Results are analyzed via bivariate correlations and multivariate analysis.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Walking or Rolling
Spatial Methods Survey
Environmental Psychology
Physical types
Geographic locations