Neighborhood walking among overweight and obese adults: age variations in barriers and motivators

J Community Health. 2013 Feb;38(1):12-22. doi: 10.1007/s10900-012-9592-6.


Walking is a popular form of physical activity that can bring many public health benefits. It can be even more beneficial to those who are currently obese or overweight. However, many barriers discourage people from walking, ranging from lack of motivation to unsafe neighborhood environments, and such barriers vary with age. This study addresses barriers and motivators to walking among overweight and obese adults, and examines their age variations. Particular emphasis was given to modifiable environmental factors as the priority intervention targets. A survey of 161 overweight and obese adults recruited from a large integrated healthcare system in central Texas provided data on walking, demographics, motivators and barriers. Descriptive statistics and correlation analysis were conducted. The respondents had a mean age of 48.4 (20-86), and were predominantly female (80.8%), non-Hispanic White (86.0%), and obese (mean BMI = 32.5). Popular environmental barriers to walking were: bad weather, inadequate lighting, no shade, unattended dogs, disconnected sidewalks, poor walking surfaces, no interesting places to walk nearby, and no benches (74.5-38.5%). Even and smooth walking surfaces and benches were more frequently reported by older adults as motivators. Proximity to recreational facilities was a stronger motivator for younger adults. Two safety related barriers, fear of injury (older adults) and traffic safety concerns (younger adults), also showed significant age differences. Overweight and obese adults experience substantial environmental barriers to walking, but many of them are modifiable. Observed age variations suggest that future interventions may be more effective if tailored to address age-specific barriers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Walking / psychology*
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult