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      Environmental influences on energy balance-related behaviors: A dual-process view

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          Abstract

          Background

          Studies on the impact of the 'obesogenic' environment have often used non-theoretical approaches. In this journal's debate and in other papers authors have argued the necessity of formulating conceptual models for differentiating the causal role of environmental influences on behavior.

          Discussion

          The present paper aims to contribute to the debate by presenting a dual-process view on the environment – behavior relationship. This view is conceptualized in the EnRG framework (Environmental Research framework for weight Gain prevention). In the framework, behavior is postulated to be the result of a simultaneous influence of conscious and unconscious processes. Environmental influences are hypothesized to influence behavior both indirectly and directly. The indirect causal mechanism reflects the mediating role of behavior-specific cognitions in the influence of the environment on behavior. A direct influence reflects the automatic, unconscious, influence of the environment on behavior. Specific personal and behavioral factors are postulated to moderate the causal path (i.e., inducing either the automatic or the cognitively mediated environment – behavior relation). In addition, the EnRG framework applies an energy balance-approach, stimulating the integrated study of determinants of diet and physical activity.

          Conclusion

          The application of a dual-process view may guide research towards causal mechanisms linking specific environmental features with energy balance-related behaviors in distinct populations. The present paper is hoped to contribute to the evolution of a paradigm that may help to disentangle the role of 'obesogenic' environmental factors.

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          Most cited references117

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          Environmental factors associated with adults' participation in physical activity: a review.

          N Humpel (2002)
          Promoting physical activity is a public health priority, and changes in the environmental contexts of adults' activity choices are believed to be crucial. However, of the factors associated with physical activity, environmental influences are among the least understood. Using journal scans and computerized literature database searches, we identified 19 quantitative studies that assessed the relationships with physical activity behavior of perceived and objectively determined physical environment attributes. Findings were categorized into those examining five categories: accessibility of facilities, opportunities for activity, weather, safety, and aesthetic attributes. Accessibility, opportunities, and aesthetic attributes had significant associations with physical activity. Weather and safety showed less-strong relationships. Where studies pooled different categories to create composite variables, the associations were less likely to be statistically significant. Physical environment factors have consistent associations with physical activity behavior. Further development of ecologic and environmental models, together with behavior-specific and context-specific measurement strategies, should help in further understanding of these associations. Prospective studies are required to identify possible causal relationships.
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            Understanding environmental influences on walking; Review and research agenda.

            Understanding how environmental attributes can influence particular physical activity behaviors is a public health research priority. Walking is the most common physical activity behavior of adults; environmental innovations may be able to influence rates of participation. Review of studies on relationships of objectively assessed and perceived environmental attributes with walking. Associations with environmental attributes were examined separately for exercise and recreational walking, walking to get to and from places, and total walking. Eighteen studies were identified. Aesthetic attributes, convenience of facilities for walking (sidewalks, trails); accessibility of destinations (stores, park, beach); and perceptions about traffic and busy roads were found to be associated with walking for particular purposes. Attributes associated with walking for exercise were different from those associated with walking to get to and from places. While few studies have examined specific environment-walking relationships, early evidence is promising. Key elements of the research agenda are developing reliable and valid measures of environmental attributes and walking behaviors, determining whether environment-behavior relationships are causal, and developing theoretical models that account for environmental influences and their interactions with other determinants.
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              Goal Achievement: The Role of Intentions

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act
                The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
                BioMed Central (London )
                1479-5868
                2006
                15 May 2006
                : 3
                : 9
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Health Education and Health Promotion, University of Maastricht, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Department of Nutrition and Health, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [3 ]National Institute of Public health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
                [4 ]Department of Public and Occupational Health and Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [5 ]Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
                Article
                1479-5868-3-9
                10.1186/1479-5868-3-9
                1481572
                16700907
                1910515b-12f3-4dee-a471-a3832ff7c404
                Copyright © 2006 Kremers et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Debate

                Nutrition & Dietetics
                Nutrition & Dietetics

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