Background: Recent research highlights the importance of environment as a determinant of physical activity; however, evidence among Japanese is sparse. The aim of this study was to examine the association between perceived neighborhood environment and neighborhood walking for multiple purposes among Japanese.
Methods: We conducted a population-based, cross-sectional study of 1461 Japanese adults (age: 48.2 +/- 14.1 years, men: 44.8%). Neighborhood environment and walking were assessed by a validated questionnaire. The odds ratio of active walkers was calculated in relation to environmental characteristics after adjustment for age, sex, and other potential confounders.
Results: Participants were more likely to walk when they perceived that there was high residential density (odds ratio, 1.47; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-1.96), fair land use mix-diversity (1.37, 1.04-1.81), good walking/cycling facilities (1.56, 1.19-2.04), and attractive aesthetics (1.49, 1.14-1.95). Environmental factors associated with walking differed with respect to the purpose for walking. The environmental characteristics associated with walking for daily errands and with walking for commuting were similar, and included residential density and land use mix. Walking for leisure was associated with walking/cycling facilities, aesthetics, and traffic safety. Stratified analyses showed some sex-specific associations. Among women, there was an unexpected inverse association of leisure walking with both residential density and land use mix-diversity.
Conclusions: The association between neighborhood environment and walking differed by walking purpose. The results were generally consistent with those of studies conducted in Western countries, except for the association of high residential density and good land use mix-diversity with less leisure walking in women. These results suggest possible targets for environmental interventions to promote walking.