The epidemiology of walking for physical activity in the United States

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Sep;35(9):1529-36. doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000084622.39122.0C.


Purpose: The purpose of this paper was to describe the epidemiology of walking for physical activity among respondents to the U.S. Physical Activity Study. Correlates of walking among people who never walk for physical activity, those who walk regularly, and people who walk occasionally were compared.

Methods: Data on walking, personal and environmental correlates, and sociodemographics were collected via telephone using a modified random-digit-dialing technique on a national sample. Three categories were analyzed: Regular walkers were those who met public health recommendations by walking (5x wk-1 and 30 min at a time), occasional walkers were those who walked for physical activity but did not meet this recommendation, and never walkers were those who never walked for physical activity. Multiple logistic regression resulting in odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated.

Results: Thirty-four percent of this population were regular walkers, 45.6% occasional walkers, and 20.7% never walkers. Walkers reported using neighborhood streets, shopping malls, and parks for walking. Regular walkers had more self-confidence and more social support than occasional or never walkers. Occasional and never walkers reported time as a barrier more than regular walkers (OR 1.91 and 2.36). Never walkers were more likely (OR 3.25) to report feeling unhealthy and more likely (OR 4.43) to report lacking energy to exercise.

Conclusion: Our results identify important information that can be used to help guide future interventions that promote walking as a form of physical activity. An ecological approach that combines individual (e.g., self-confidence), interpersonal (e.g., social support), and community aspects (e.g., improve streets for walking) may be the most beneficial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Public Health
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data*