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Neighborhood 'walkability' determines activity level of older women, say researchers

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 28 Neighborhood "walkability" and the proximity of destinations play major roles in the amount of physical activity older women get, according to a University of Pittsburgh study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

"We found that older women who feel their neighborhoods are favorable for walking are up to 100 percent more physically active than those who see their neighborhoods as unfavorable for walking," said lead author Wendy King, an epidemiology student at the Graduate School of Public Health. "In addition, women who live near facilities and services like parks, trails or shops have considerably higher levels of activity than those whose homes are not within walking distance to such sites."

Investigators conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data collected on 149 Pittsburgh women whose average age was 74 years. Most lived in suburban or urban neighborhoods with low crime rates.

Study participants wore pedometers to measure their physical activity. The women reported walking levels, leisure time physical activity and neighborhood environmental features in interviews and questionnaires.

Results showed that participants who lived within 20-minutes walking distance of a park; a biking or walking trail; or a department, discount or hardware store; and who lived in a neighborhood considered "walkable," had higher pedometer readings and higher total physical activity scores on questionnaires.

For instance, women who lived near biking or walking trails averaged 6,797 steps per day on the pedometer, versus 4,908 steps by those who do not live near a trail. Women who lived within walking distance from a department, discount or hardware store averaged 6,808 steps per day, versus 5,015 steps for those not living near such a store.

Those who rated their neighborhood walkability as "excellent" took an average of 6,349 steps per day, while those with self-rated "po
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Contact: Kathryn Duda
412-624-2607
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
28-Aug-2003


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