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Moving to an active lifestyle? A systematic review of the effects of residential relocation on walking, physical activity and travel behaviour
  1. Ding Ding1,
  2. Binh Nguyen1,
  3. Vincent Learnihan2,
  4. Adrian E Bauman1,
  5. Rachel Davey2,
  6. Bin Jalaludin3,4,
  7. Klaus Gebel1,5,6
  1. 1Prevention Research Collaboration, Charles Perkins Centre, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Health Research Institute, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology, Healthy People and Places Unit, Population Health, South Western Sydney Local Health District, Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4Ingham Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5School of Allied Health, Australian Catholic University, North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  6. 6Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Smithfield, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ding Ding, Prevention Research Collaboration, Charles Perkins Centre, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia; melody.ding{at}


Objective To synthesise the literature on the effects of neighbourhood environmental change through residential relocation on physical activity, walking and travel behaviour.

Design Systematic review following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines (PROSPERO registration number CRD42017077681).

Data sources Electronic databases for peer-reviewed and grey literature were systematically searched to March 2017, followed by forward and backward citation tracking.

Eligibility criteria A study was eligible for inclusion if it (1) measured changes in neighbourhood built environment attributes as a result of residential relocation (either prospectively or retrospectively); (2) included a measure of physical activity, walking, cycling or travel modal change as an outcome; (3) was quantitative and (4) included an English abstract or summary.

Results A total of 23 studies was included in the review. Among the eight retrospective longitudinal studies, there was good evidence for the relationship between relocation and walking (consistency score (CS)>90%). For the 15 prospective longitudinal studies, the evidence for the effects of environmental change/relocation on physical activity or walking was weak to moderate (CS mostly <45%), even weaker for effects on other outcomes, including physical activity, cycling, public transport use and driving. Results from risk of bias analyses support the robustness of the findings.

Conclusion The results are encouraging for the retrospective longitudinal relocation studies, but weaker evidence exists for the methodologically stronger prospective longitudinal relocation studies. The evidence base is currently limited, and continued longitudinal research should extend the plethora of cross-sectional studies to build higher-quality evidence.

  • physical activity
  • walking
  • community
  • epidemiology
  • evaluation

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  • Contributors DD and KG conceptualised the study, were involved in research supervision, wrote the first draft, and all the other authors provided critical input in the interpretation of data and writing of the manuscript. BN and DD conducted the literature search. BN, DD, VL and KG extracted data. All authors approved the final version for submission.

  • Funding The study was funded by a Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Research Network Project grant awarded to Ding et al and

  • Competing interests DD is supported by an Australian Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship. BN is supported through an Australian Postgraduate Award and a University of Sydney Merit Award.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.