Association of the built environment with physical activity and obesity in older persons

Am J Public Health. 2007 Mar;97(3):486-92. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2006.085837. Epub 2007 Jan 31.


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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment Design / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Probability
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics / classification*
  • Walking / physiology
  • Walking / psychology
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data*
  • Washington / epidemiology