The effect of walking on lower body disability among older blacks and whites

Am J Public Health. 1996 Jan;86(1):57-61. doi: 10.2105/ajph.86.1.57.


Objectives: This study investigated the association between regular physical activity and risk of or increase in lower body disability in older, community dwelling Blacks and Whites.

Methods: The present study used the 1984 to 1990 Longitudinal Study on Aging, which included 413 Black and 3428 White self-respondents 70 years of age or older. Discrete-time hazard models provided estimates of the effects of self-reported walking frequency, and regular exercise on lower, body disability among Black and White self-respondents.

Results: Whites who reported walking 4 to 7 days per week at baseline vs those who reported never walking 1 mile (1.6 km) or more experienced a one-third lower risk of increased disability. Blacks who reported walking 4 to 7 days per week experienced a two-thirds lower risk. Walking 4 to 7 days per week reduced the risk of disability onset by 50% to 80% on all five disability items within the Black sample and by 50% on two items within the White sample.

Conclusions: Among older Blacks, walking 4 to 7 days per week had a greater protective effect against lower body decline than any of the other factors, including age and chronic conditions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disabled Persons* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Walking* / statistics & numerical data
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data*