Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

IPEN Adult study

International Physical Activity and the Environment Network (IPEN) Adult study

The IPEN Adult study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute (CA127296) 2009 to 2014. The NIH grant supported the Coordinating Centre at UC San Diego (initially at San Diego State University) and data collection in several countries. Other countries were successful in obtaining internal funding for their data collection. The IPEN Coordinating Centre is now supported by the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University.

Numerous US and international agencies have identified environmental and policy interventions as the most promising strategies for improving physical activity, eating, and obesity in entire populations.  The evidence base on environmental and policy factors was deficient in three important ways that the IPEN Adult study was designed to address:

  1. Although associations between built environments and PA are widely accepted by authoritative groups like the CDC’s Community Guide, the World Health Organization, and national physical activity plans, accurate estimates of the strength of associations are not available because virtually all studies have limited environmental variability because they are conducted in single cities or countries. If underestimated associations make it less likely that decision makers pursue built environment changes, then public health suffers.
  2. Several studies document associations between the built environment and weight outcomes, but outcomes have been mixed, and confirmatory studies are needed, especially those conducted in diverse environments.
  3. Measures are insufficiently detailed to give guidance about specific attributes of the built environment most likely to be effective when changed through interventions.

The IPEN Adult study collected comparable data from 12 countries (17 cities) using a common research protocol to achieve two primary aims:

  1. Estimate the strength and shape of relationships of detailed objective and perceived measures of the built environment with objectively-assessed physical activity, and self-reported leisure and transportation physical activity in adults.
  2. To estimate the strength and shape of relationships of detailed objective and perceived measures of the built environment with overweight and obesity in adults.


To accurately assess the strength of association of the built environment with physical activity and weight status, greater environmental variability is required than any one country can provide. Thus, we have undertaken a ground-breaking international study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and other funders, which uses a common design and measurement protocol to produce more accurate effect size estimates. Because US-only studies are expected to underestimate effect size, this international study will provide additional information to US decision makers.

Participating countries were selected to collect new data based on the strength of investigators, preliminary studies, and in some cases, existing partial funding.  Physical activity was assessed by the validated long IPAQ (International Physical Activity Questionnaire) survey and accelerometers. Built environment was assessed by a validated built environment survey (Neighbourhood Environment Walkability Scale, NEWS) in all countries and Geographic Information System data in most countries.  Data were checked for comparability. Pooled analyses examine how specific environmental attributes are related to total physical activity as well as the domains of leisure and transport.

All countries selected neighbourhoods that varied on walkability and socio-economic status and recruited a minimum of 500 adults aged 20-65.

Please visit the main IPEN website for more detail about IPEN Adult.

Investigators by Country (ACU-affiliated in bold)

*Neville Owen
Takemi Sugiyama
Ester Cerin
Evie Leslie

*Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij
Delfien Van Dyck

*Rodrigo Reis
Akira Hino

*Olga Lucia Sarmiento Dueñas
Andrea Ramirez Varela
Angie Catherine Olarte Duarte 
Josed Pinzon

*Josef Mitáš
Karel Frömel
Jan Dygryn

*Jens Troelsen
Lars Breum Christensen
Jasper Schipperijn

*Ester Cerin
*Duncan Macfarlane
Poh-Chin Lai

*Deborah Salvo
Michael Pratt

*Grant Schofield
*Erica Hinckson
Suzanna Mavoa
Hannah Badland 

*Francisco Guillen Grima
Ines Aguinaga-Ontoso

*Rachel Davey 
Graham Smith 
Tom Cochrane

US Coordinating Centre – Australian Catholic University and UC San Diego
*Jim Sallis 
Jacqueline Kerr 
Kelli Cain
Terry Conway 
Carrie Geremia 
Marc Adams 
Larry Frank 
Jim Chapman

*Denotes principal investigator

Steering Committee

Jim Sallis (chair), Marc Adams, Ester Cerin, Terry Conway, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Larry Frank, Jacqueline Kerr, Neville Owen and Takemi Sugiyama

Publication Committee

Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij (chair: until March 2018), Hannah Badland, Kelli Cain, Ester Cerin (chair: from March 2018), Terry Conway, Rachel Davey, Neville Owen, Jim Sallis, Jasper Schipperijn

Chief analyst

Ester Cerin

IPEN Adult Publications (using international pooled data)

Kerr, J., Sallis, J.F., Owen, N., DeBourdeaudhuij, I., Cerin, E., Frank, L., Reis, R., Fromel, K., Mitáš, J., Troelsen, J., MacFarlane, D., Salvo, D., Schofield, G., Badland, H., Guileen-Grima, F., Davey, R., Bauman, A., Saelens, B., Riddoch, C., Ainsworth, B., Pratt, M., Schimd, T., Adams, M., Conway, T., Cain, K., Van Dyke, D., and Bracy, N. (2013). Advancing science and policy through a coordinated international study of physical activity and built environments: IPEN methods. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10, 581-601.

Cerin, E., Conway, T.L., Cain, K.L., Kerr, J., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Owen, N., Reis, R.S., Sarmiento, O.L., Hinckson, E.A., Salvo, D., Christiansen, L.B., MacFarlane, D.J., Davey, R., Mitas, J., Aguinaga-Ontoso, I., and Sallis, J.F. (2013). Sharing good NEWS across the world: Developing comparable scores across 12 countries for the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale (NEWS). BMC Public Health, 13:309. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-309. URL: PMCID: PMC3642009.

Adams, M.A., Frank, L.D., Schipperijn, J., Smith, G., Chapman, J., Christiansen, L.B., Coffee, N., Salvo, D., du Toit, L., Jan Dygrýn, J., Hino, A.A.F., Lai, P-C., Mavoa, S., Pinzón, J.D., Van de Weghe, N., Cerin, E., Davey, R., Macfarlane, D., Owen, N., and Sallis, J.F. (2014). International variation in neighborhood walkability, transit, and recreation environments using Geographic Information Systems: The IPEN Adult Study. International Journal of Health Geographics, 13:43. doi: 10.1186/1476-072X-13-43.

Sugiyama, T., Cerin, E., Owen, N., Oyeyemi, A.L., Conway, T.L., Van Dyck, D., Schipperijn, J., Macfarlane, D.J., Salvo, D., Reis, R.S., Mitáš, J., Sarmiento, O.L., Davey, R., Schofield, G., Orzanco-Garralda, R., and Sallis, J.F. (2014). Perceived neighborhood environment attributes associated with adults’ recreational walking: IPEN Adult study in 12 countries. Health and Place, 28, 22-30.

Cerin, E., Cain, K.L., Conway, T.L., Van Dyck, D., Hinckson, E., Schipperijn, J., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Owen, N., Davey, R.C., Hino, A.A.F., Mitáš, J., Orzanco-Garralda, R., Salvo, D., Sarmiento, O.L., Christiansen, L.B., Macfarlane, D., Schofield, G., and Sallis, J.F. (2014). Neighborhood environments and objectively measured physical activity in 11 countries. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(12), 2253-2264. Published online April 28, 2014. PubMed PMID:  24781892.

Van Dyck, D., Cerin, E., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Hinckson, E., Reis, R.S., Davey, R., Sarmiento, O.L., Mitáš, J., Troelsen, J., Macfarlane, D., Salvo, D., Aguinaga-Ontoso, I., Owen, N., Cain, K.L., and Sallis, J.F. (2015). International study of objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time with body mass index and obesity: IPEN Adult study. International Journal of Obesity, 39, 199-207.

De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Van Dyck, D., Salvo, D., Davey, R., Reis, R.S., Schofield, G., Sarmiento, O.L., Mitáš, J., Christiansen, L.B., Macfarlane, D., Sugiyama, T., Aguinaga-Ontoso, I., Owen, N., Conway, T.L., Sallis, J.F., and Cerin, E. (2015). International study of perceived neighbourhood environmental attributes and Body Mass Index: IPEN Adult study in 12 countries. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12: 62.

Van Dyck, D., Cerin, E., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Salvo, D., Christiansen, L.B., Macfarlane, D., Owen, N., Mitáš, J., Troelsen, J., Aguinaga-Ontoso, I., Davey, R., Reis, R., Sarmiento, O.L., Schofield, G., Conway, T.L., and Sallis, J.F. (2015). Moderating effects of age, gender and education on the associations of perceived neighborhood environment attributes with accelerometer-based physical activity: The IPEN Adult study. Health and Place, 36, 65-73.

Kerr, J., Emond, J.A., Badland, H., Reis, R., Sarmiento, O., Carlson, J., Sallis, J.F., Cerin, E., Cain, K., Conway, T., Schofield, G., Macfarlane, D.J., Christiansen, L.B., Van Dyck, D., Davey, R., Aguinaga-Ontoso, I., Salvo, D., Sugiyama, T., Owen, N., Mitáš, J., and Natarajan, L. (2016). Perceived neighborhood environmental attributes associated with walking and cycling for transport among adult residents of 17 cities in 12 countries: The IPEN study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(3), 290-298. Posted online July 17, 2015. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1409466. (open access)

Christiansen, L.B., Cerin, E., Badland, H., Kerr, J., Davey, R., Troelsen, J., Van Dyck, D., Mitáš, J., Schofield, G., Sugiyama, T., Salvo, D., Sarmiento, O., Reis, R., Adams, M., Frank, L., and Sallis, J.F. (2016). International comparisons of the associations between objective measures of the built environment and transport-related walking and cycling: IPEN adult study Journal of Transport and Health. Posted online March 21, 2016.

Sallis, J.F., Cerin, E., Conway, T.L., Adams, M.A., Frank, L.D., Pratt, M., Salvo, D., Schipperijn, J., Smith, G., Cain, K.L., Davey, R., Kerr, J., Lai, P-C., Mitáš, J., Reis, R., Sarmiento, O.L., Schofield, G., Troelsen, J., Van Dyck, D., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., and Owen, N. (2016). Urban environments in 14 cities worldwide are related to physical activity. The Lancet, 387(no. 10034), 2207-2217. Released online April 1, 2016. Open access:
Research brief and blog:
Shortened link:
Comment by Goenka and Andersen:
twitter hashtag: #GlobalActiveCities

Cerin, E., Cain, K.L., Oyeyemi, A., Owen, N., Conway, T.L., Cochrane, T., van Dyck, D., Schipperijn, J., Mitaš, J., Toftager, M., Aguinaga-Ontoso, I., and Sallis, J.F. (2016). Correlates of agreement between accelerometry and self-reported physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; 48(6):1075-84. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000870.

Frank, L.D., Fox, E.H., Ulmer, J.M., Chapman, J.E., Kershaw, S.E., Sallis, J.F., Conway, T.L., Cerin, E., Cain, K.L., Adams, M.A., Smith, G.R., Hinckson, E., Mavoa, S., Christiansen, L.B., Hino, A.A., Lopes, A., and Schipperijn, J. (2017). International comparison of observation-specific spatial buffers: Maximizing the ability to estimate physical activity. International Journal of Health Geographics, 16(4). DOI: 10.1186/s12942-017-0077-9. Open access:

Cerin, E., Mitáš, J., Cain, K.L., Conway, T.L., Adams, M., Schofield, G., Sarmiento, O.L., Reis, R.S., Schipperijn, J., Davey, R., Salvo, D., Orzanco-Garralda, R., Macfarlane, D., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Owen, N., Sallis, J.F., and Van Dyck, D. (2017). Do associations of objectively-assessed physical activity with neighbourhood environment attributes vary by time of the day and day of the week? IPEN Adult Study International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14:34. Open access: DOI 10.1186/s12966-017-0493-z

Schipperijn, J., Cerin, E., Adams, M.A., Reis, R., Smith, G., Cain, K., Christiansen, L.B., van Dyck, D., Gidlow, C., Frank, L.D., Mitáš, J., Pratt, M., Salvo, D., Schofield, G., and Sallis J. F. (2017). Access to parks and physical activity: an eight country comparison. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 27, 253-263. Posted online September 5, 2017.

ACU-affiliated authors in bold