Objective: We examined whether older persons who live in areas that are conducive to walking are more active or less obese than those living in areas where walking is more difficult.
Methods: We used data from the Adult Changes in Thought cohort study for a cross-sectional analysis of 936 participants aged 65 to 97 years. The Walkable and Bikable Communities Project previously formulated a walkability score to predict the probability of walking in King County, Washington. Data from the cohort study were linked to the walkability score at the participant level using a geographic information system. Analyses tested for associations between walkability score and activity and body mass index.
Results: Higher walkability scores were associated with significantly more walking for exercise across buffers (circular zones around each respondent's home) of varying radii (for men, odds ratio [OR]=5.86; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.01, 34.17 to OR=9.14; CI=1.23, 68.11; for women, OR=1.63; CI=0.94, 2.83 to OR=1.77; CI=1.03, 3.04). A trend toward lower body mass index in men living in more walkable neighborhoods did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that neighborhood characteristics are associated with the frequency of walking for physical activity in older people. Whether frequency of walking reduces obesity prevalence is less clear.