February 4, 2007

Guest What? Seniors Walk More in Walker-Friendly Communities

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn't it? If you want to keep older adults walking for exercise, design more pedestrian-friendly communities. Yet you'd never know it from some of the new housing being built for seniors today, which doesn't encourage much walking to other destinations in the comunity.

But if it's possible and more enticing to walk, people do walk. The built environment matters! A study headed by Dr. Ethan Berke, assistant professor at Dartmouth Medical School, indeed showed that "men living in more walkable neighborhoods were about six times more likely to walk for exercise, and women were 75 percent more likely to walk for exercise," according to Health Behavior News Service. The study examined 936 participants from 65 to 97 years old.

"Berke and a team of University of Washington urban planning specialists created a measurement of neighborhood 'walkability' and applied it to communities in the Seattle region. The measurement looked at about 200 factors, including slope of the land, mix of residents and businesses and proximity to grocery stores."

The study is slated to appear in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

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