Predictors of Physical Activity in Community-dwelling Elderly White Women

Walsh, Judith M. E.; Rogot Pressman, Alice; Cauley, Jane A.; Browner, Warren S.
November 2001
JGIM: Journal of General Internal Medicine;Nov2001, Vol. 16 Issue 11, p721
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVE: To describe patterns of physical activity and to determine factors associated with engaging in regular exercise, especially walking, in elderly white women. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of 9,442 independently living elderly white women aged 65 years and over participating in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We studied the association between lifestyle habits, social factors, health status and self-reported physical activity (assessed by modified Paffenbarger scale) during the past twelve months. Walking was the most common form of exercise: 4,837 (51%) women reported doing so a mean of 12 (SD = 10) blocks per day, 3.9 (SD = 2.9) times per week. Other common activities were gardening (35%), swimming (16%), and bicycling (13%). Less than a third of women reported engaging in medium- or high-intensity exercise in the past year. In a multivariate age-adjusted analysis, factors independently (P < .01) associated with walking for exercise included greater than high school education (52% vs 48%), history of physical activity for exercise at ages 30 years (51% vs 46%) and 50 years (51% vs 45%), and stronger social network (51% vs 47%). Women who were current smokers, obese, or depressed were less likely to take walks for exercise. Marital status, self-reported arthritis, current estrogen use, and a history of falls in the past year were not independently associated with taking walks for exercise. CONCLUSIONS: In this healthy cohort, walking for exercise is associated with other positive health behaviors. Given the mounting evidence about the health benefits of walking, and since many of these community dwelling women can and do walk for exercise, but rarely engage in other common prescribed physical activities, clinicians might best focus their efforts on encouraging walking.


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