Activity spaces in studies of the environment and physical activity: A review and synthesis of implications for causality.
Health & place 2018 ; 58: 102113.
PubMed ID : 31402209
PMCID : PMC6737923
Activity spaces are increasingly used to understand how people interact with their environment and engage in activity but their use may raise challenges regarding causal inference. We conducted a systematic review of findings and the methodological, analytical and conceptual issues relevant to causal inference. Studies were included if they comprised a spatial summary of locations visited, assessed any part of the causal pathway between the environment, physical activity and health, and used quantitative or qualitative methods. We searched seven electronic databases in January 2018 and screened 11910 articles for eligibility. Forty-seven studies were included for review. Studies answered research questions about features of or environmental features within activity spaces using a range of spatial and temporal summary techniques. The conceptual challenge of using activity spaces to strengthen causal inference was rarely considered, although some studies discussed circularity, temporality, and plausibility. Future studies should use longitudinal and experimental designs and consider the potential and actual use of spaces for physical activity, and their relationship with total levels of activity.