Editors' ChoiceFitness

Keep Walking

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Science Translational Medicine  31 Mar 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 25, pp. 25ec52
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001100

Physical activity is an important determinant of health among older adults, but such activity declines with age. Walking is one of the most common and easiest forms of exercise, so identifying factors that are associated with this activity in older adults is important. A growing body of evidence suggests that the built environment—the buildings, sidewalks, streets, parks, and other human-made structures in neighborhoods—may significantly influence walking behavior. Recent research by Michael et al. adds to this evidence by establishing, in a prospective longitudinal study set in Portland, Oregon, that the built environment is associated with a maintained or increased amount of weekly walking in older adults. More specifically, in a large cohort of men 65 years or older, the researchers found that living in close proximity to “green space,” defined as parks and trails, was associated with a higher probability of maintained or increased walking each week over 4 years. However, this association appears to apply to neighborhoods with higher, but not lower, socioeconomic status. Further research is necessary to understand the differential effects observed in this study and to generalize these results to women and other geographic areas. Despite these limitations, this research can be used not only to develop effective health interventions but also to shape the public policy used to develop and redevelop neighborhoods.

Y. L. Michael et al., Physical activity resources and change in walking in a cohort of older men. Am. J. Public Health 4, 654–660 (2010). [Abstract]

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