Background: Recent research has revealed the importance of neighborhood environment as a determinant of physical activity. However, evidence among elderly adults is limited. This study examined the association between perceived neighborhood environment and walking for specific purposes among Japanese elderly adults.
Methods: This population-based, cross-sectional study enrolled 1921 participants (age: 65-74 years, men: 51.9%). Neighborhood environment (International Physical Activity Questionnaire Environmental Module) and walking for specific purposes (ie, transportation or recreation) were assessed by self-report. Multilevel logistic regression analyses with individuals at level 1 and neighborhoods at level 2 were conducted to examine the association between environment and walking, after adjustment for potential confounders.
Results: Access to exercise facilities, social environment, and aesthetics were associated with total neighborhood walking. Odds ratios (95% CI) were 1.23 (1.00-1.51), 1.39 (1.14-1.71), and 1.48 (1.21-1.81), respectively. Regarding walking for specific purposes, social environment and aesthetics were consistent correlates of both transportation walking and recreational walking. Environmental correlates differed by specific types of walking and by sex. Transportation walking significantly correlated with a greater variety of environmental attributes. Sex differences were observed, especially for transportation walking. Bicycle lanes, crime safety, traffic safety, aesthetics, and household motor vehicles were significant correlates among men, while access to shops, access to exercise facilities, and social environment were important among women.
Conclusions: Specific environment-walking associations differed by walking purpose and sex among elderly adults. Social environment and aesthetics were consistent correlates of both transportation walking and recreational walking. Improving these environmental features might be effective in promoting physical activity among elderly Japanese.