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Table 2 Summary of the key characteristics of included studies

From: The effect of changing the built environment on physical activity: a quantitative review of the risk of bias in natural experiments

Author (date) Study location Research design Type of intervention (total cost) Physical activity outcomesa (level of data) Sample size Number/type of control sites
Branas et al. [37] US Repeated cross-sectional Greening of 4,436 abandoned vacant lots over 725,000 m2(cost not reported) Self-report survey (individual-level) No exact count provided 13,308 matched control lots at a ratio of 3:1 per treated lot
Cohen et al. [38] US Mixed 5 parks, ranging from 3.4 to 16 acres, underwent major improvements (Over $1 million budget per park) 1) Systematic observation using SOPARC (population-level)
2) Self-report household interviews (indivudal-level)
3) Self-report intercept interviews (individual-level)
1) 3,500 park users
2) 1,480 park users
3) 1,387 household residents
5 matched control parks
Cohen et al. [39] US Repeated cross-sectional A skate park ($3.5 million) and a senior citizen’s centre ($3.3 million) had major renovations Systematic observation using SOPARC (population-level) Senior centre: 2,188 users; Skate park: no exact count provided 1 control site per intervention; one skate park and one senior centre
Cohen et al. [40] US Repeated cross-sectional 12 parks, ranging from 0.5 to 46 acres, had “Family Fitness” Zones (outdoor gyms) installed (average of $45,000 per park) 1) Systematic observation using SOPARC (population-level)
2) Self-report intercept interviews (individual-level)
1) 9,476 park users
2) 2,636 interviews
10 matched control parks
Fitzhugh et al. [41] US Repeated cross-sectional A 2.9-mile, 8-foot wide urban greenway/trail was retrofıtted in a neighbourhood ($2.1 million) Systematic observation (population-level) No exact count provided 2 matched control neighbourhoods
Gustat et al. [42] US Repeated cross-sectional A 6-block walking path and a school playground were installed (cost not reported) 1) Self-report survey (individual-level)
2) Systematic observation using SOPARC/SOPLAY (population-level)
1) 1,191 interviews
2) No exact count provided
2 matched control neighbourhoods
Krizek et al. [43] US Repeated cross-sectional Installation of bicycle lanes and off-street bicycle paths (cost not reported) Self-report census data (indivudal-level) No exact count provided 1 buffer zone based on distance from intervention facilities
Merom et al. [44] Australia Mixed Construction of a Rail Trail and a local promotional campaign to raise awareness of the facility (cost not reported) 1) Self-report survey (individual-level)
2) Systematic observation (population-level)
1) 450 households at follow-up
2) No exact count provided
1 outer area located 1.5 to 5 km from the Rail Trail
Parker et al. [45] US Repeated cross-sectional A 1-mile, 5-foot wide bike lane was constructed (cost not reported) Systematic observation (population-level) No exact count provided 2 adjacent streets
Tester and Baker [46] US Repeated cross-sectional 2 public parks underwent playfield renovations and staff development programs ($5.5 million) Systematic observation using SOPARC (population-level) 4,889 park visitors 1 matched control park
Veitch et al. [47] Australia Repeated cross-sectional A park (size: 25,200 m2) was refurbished (cost not reported) Systematic observation using SOPARC (population-level) 2,050 park users 1 matched control park (size: 10,000 m2)
West and Shores [48] US Within-person longitudinal 5 miles of greenway added to an existing greenway (cost not reported) Self-report survey (individual-level) 166 residents 1 buffer zone based on distance from greenway
  1. aSOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities) [49] is a validated instrument for measuring physical activity using systematic observation in community settings; SOPLAY (System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth) [50] is a validated instrument for measuring physical activity using systematic observation in free play settings (e.g., during lunchtime at school)