Ramps & Recreation: How Your (Indoor) Environment Can Impact Your Physical Activity

Although previous research has demonstrated that features within the outdoor environment can impact physical activity, less research has focused specifically on indoor environments. There are many factors that can impact the desire or ability to be active outdoors, including weather, safety, accessibility, and pandemic-related lockdowns. Given that these factors can more heavily impact older adults, research is especially needed to examine the relationship between indoor features and older adults’ physical activity. In order to summarize the existing research on this relationship, a group of researchers conducted a systematic review by screening over 1,300 studies in this area of research.

Only 23 of the screened studies were found to fit the researchers’ search criteria. After identifying these 23 studies, the researchers used the results to summarize three common domains of indoor features that impact physical activity: campus features (aesthetics/visibility, amenities/recreation, destinations, and outdoor pathways), building features (area, floor level, and type of building), and indoor fixtures (hallways, elevators, stairs, and ramps). Some of the features among these domains that were commonly found to support physical activity were well-planned pathways and walkable amenities or destinations, while things like unsafe stairways and a lack of recreational resources tended to hinder physical activity. Researchers also found that accessibility and safety were important factors influencing physical activity across both private and collective residential settings.

Even just examining how an indoor environment could affect physical activity is an important first step for older adults in terms of choosing where to live, designing new indoor spaces, and interacting with the existing indoor environment. This review may have implications, not only for older adults, but also for aging services providers, policy makers, and building designers. Support for older adults’ physical activity must be considered when designing new buildings or changing existing spaces, and this type of research can provide evidence to facilitate and improve the design process.


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Azim, F. T., Ariza-Vega, P., Gardiner, P. A., & Ashe, M. C. (2022). Indoor built environment and older adults’ activity: A systematic review. Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue Canadienne Du Vieillissement, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0714980822000241

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