Use of Geographic Information Systems in Physical Activity Interventions: a Systematic Review

Liliana Aguayo, Mariha Khan, Reynaldo De Leon, Andiara Schwingel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The promotion of physical activity is inextricably dependent on the environment. This systematic review summarizes studies that used geographic information systems to account for the role of geographic features in the design, implementation, or evaluation of interventions that promoted physical activity.

Methods: Pubmed, ProQuest/PsycInfo, and Cochrane Library were searched for physical activity interventions that employed geographic information systems. The search was conducted with an algorithm that included 10 geographic, 28 intervention, and 9 physical activity search terms. Data were systematically reviewed using a standardized form based on the PICOS framework (participants, interventions, comparison, outcomes, and study design). Quality of the studies included was independently rated on 14 criteria (Registration number CRD42016046011).

Results: Search yield 12,518 published articles, of which, 19 studies satisfied our inclusion criteria. Proximity to recreational areas and neighborhood walkability were the most common geographic factors measured in studies of physical activity interventions. Interventions focused on supporting physical activity by providing recreational spaces and adequate infrastructure to participants. Fifteen intervention studies assessed socioeconomic environmental factors along with physical environmental factors. Support groups were introduced by 4 of the interventions to offset social environmental barriers in the geographical environment. Given the lack of consistency in measurements of physical activity, and long-term assessments, it was not possible to determine if findings are attributable to the geographic environment or a novelty effect.

Conclusion: More research is needed to better understand the physical and social factors within the geographic environment that work as barriers or facilitators of physical activity changes.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0022
JournalProgress in Preventive Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019


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