A cross-sectional survey of the relationship between walking, biking, and the built environment for adults aged over 70 years

Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2012:5:35-41. doi: 10.2147/RMHP.S30221. Epub 2012 Apr 24.


Purpose: Determine the relationship between walkability scores (using the Walk Score(®)) and activity levels (both bicycle and walking) in adults aged between 70 and 85 years in Rochester, Minnesota.

Patients and methods: This was a self-reported cross-sectional survey in adults aged over 70 years living in Rochester, Minnesota. Analysis used t-tests or chi-square analysis as appropriate. The primary endpoint was bicycle use or walking. The predictor variables were the Walk Score(®) as determined by their address, Charlson index, Duke Activity Status Index (DASI), and a 12-item short-form survey (SF-12) scores. Secondary analysis used an outcome of functional status (using the DASI) and walkability scores.

Results: Fifty-three individuals completed the surveys (48% return rate). The average age in the overall cohort was 77.02 years. Eighty-nine percent of individuals could walk at least a block and 15.1% rode their bicycles. The Walk Scores(®) did not differ between those who walked (38.9 ± 27.4) and those that did not (40.0 ± 36.08; P = 0.93). In a similar fashion, the Walk Scores(®) were not different for those who biked (36.38 ± 27.68) and those that did not (39.44 ± 28.49; P = 0.78). There was no relationship between Walk Scores(®) and DASI; however, a decreased DASI score was associated with increased age and comorbid illness (Charlson Score).

Conclusion: In this small pilot survey, there was no difference in Walk Scores(®) between those older adults who walked or biked, compared to those that did not. The Walk Scores(®) were low in both groups, which may indicate the lack of accessibility for all older adults living in Rochester, Minnesota. The functional status seemed to be more related to age or comorbid conditions than the built environment.

Keywords: biking; functional status; older adults; walking.