Interactions between psychosocial and built environment factors in explaining older adults' physical activity

Prev Med. 2012 Jan;54(1):68-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.10.004. Epub 2011 Oct 15.


Objective: To evaluate ecological model predictions of cross-level interactions among psychosocial and environmental correlates of physical activity in 719 community-dwelling older adults in the Baltimore, Maryland and Seattle, Washington areas during 2005-2008.

Method: Walkability, access to parks and recreation facilities and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) minutes per week (min/week) were measured objectively. Neighborhood aesthetics, walking facilities, social support, self-efficacy, barriers and transportation and leisure walking min/week were self-reported.

Results: Walkability interacted with social support in explaining total MVPA (B=13.71) and with social support (B=7.90), self-efficacy (B=7.66) and barriers (B=-8.26) in explaining walking for transportation. Aesthetics interacted with barriers in explaining total MVPA (B=-12.20) and walking facilities interacted with self-efficacy in explaining walking for leisure (B=-10.88; Ps<.05). Summarizing across the interactions, living in a supportive environment (vs. unsupportive) was related to 30-59 more min/week of physical activity for participants with more positive psychosocial attributes, but only 0-28 more min/week for participants with less positive psychosocial attributes.

Conclusion: Results supported synergistic interactions between built environment and psychosocial factors in explaining physical activity among older adults. Findings suggest multilevel interventions may be most effective in increasing physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Data Collection
  • Environment Design*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychology*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support
  • United States
  • Urban Population