People who have easy access to stores, transit stops and sidewalks are two times more likely to be physically active than those without these amenities, says a new study.
The study led by San Diego State University has shown that access to sidewalks is the most important factor for physical activity, possibly because people use them for recreation like jogging and in-line skating as well as for transportation.
"Our study had a great deal of variation in neighborhoods," said lead author Dr James Sallis, a professor at the San Diego State University.
"We found that amenities were strongly related to exercise levels, even in this group of culturally very diverse countries," he added.
During the study, the researchers found that people with no access to such amenities had a 15 percent to 50 percent higher chance of getting enough exercise if they had access to even one.
The rate rose steadily with each amenity and reached 100 percent when all six were available.
Sallis suggested that incorporating sidewalks into existing neighbourhoods would be a practical and relatively inexpensive way of encouraging people to exercise, but a substantial change would require several amenities.
He said that designing neighbourhoods to support a cluster of physical activities should be a public health priority around the world.
The study appears in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.