Institute for Health & Ageing

Promoting positive ageing and an age friendly society

Examining the connection between older adults' physical activity and the built environment

IHA’s David Barnett, Anthony Barnett, Andrea Nathan, and Ester Cerin, along with Jelle Van Cauwenberg of Ghent University, have recently published a systematic review and meta-analysis of built environmental correlates of older adults’ total physical activity and walking.

The aim of the study was to systematically review and quantify findings on built environmental correlates of older adults’ physical activity, and to investigate differences in associations by type of physical activity and environmental attribute measurement (i.e., objective or perceived).

One hundred included articles examining built environmental attributes related to total physical activity and walking were reviewed and findings’ meta-analysed, accounting for article quality. Built environmental attributes were across six categories, namely: (1) walkability; (2) residential density / urbanisation; (3) street connectivity; (4) access to / availability of destinations and services (e.g., shops/commercial destinations, parks); (5) infrastructure and streetscape (e.g., greenery and aesthetically pleasing scenery, walk -friendly infrastructure); and (6) safety.

It was concluded that safe, walkable, and aesthetically pleasing neighbourhoods, with access to overall and specific destinations and services positively influenced older adults’ participation in physical activity. Although the strength of evidence of associations differed across physical activity and environmental measurement types. It was also found that higher quality research is needed in this area.


Read the paper here

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