Purpose: To examine the relationship between physical activity and (1) convenience of destinations, measured by whether destinations (such as a park, trail, businesses, and services) are within walking distance of the home, and (2) participants' perception of the quality of their neighborhood surroundings for walking, captured with a global neighborhood "walkability" rating.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of data obtained in 1999.
Setting: Community in southwest Pennsylvania.
Subjects: Older Caucasian women (n = 149, mean age = 74.2 years). Response rate = 79%.
Measures: Walking levels, leisure-time physical activity, and features of the neighborhood environment were measured with interviewer-administered questionnaires. Physical activity was also measured objectively with a pedometer.
Results: Living within walking distance (defined as within a 20-minute walk of home) of a park; biking or walking trail; or department, discount, or hardware store was related to higher pedometer readings (p < .01). In addition, there was a positive trend between the sum of destinations within walking distance of home and activity levels measured by pedometer and questionnaire (p < .01). There was also a positive trend between participants' neighborhood "walkability" rating and activity levels measured by pedometer and questionnaire (p < .01).
Conclusion: These findings suggest that the ability to make utilitarian walking trips from home and the perception of having favorable neighborhood surroundings for walking are associated with increased physical activity levels in older women.