Publication Details

Merom, D., Gebel, K., Fahey, P., Astell-Burt, T., Voukelatos, A., Rissel, C. & Sherrington, C. (2015). Neighborhood walkability, fear and risk of falling and response to walking promotion: The Easy Steps to Health 12-month randomized controlled trial. Preventive Medicine Reports, 2 704-710.


In older adults the relationships between health, fall-related risk factors, perceived neighborhood walkability, walking behavior and intervention impacts are poorly understood. To determine whether: i) health and fall-related risk factors were associated with perceptions of neighborhood walkability; ii) perceived environmental attributes, and fall-related risk factors predicted change in walking behavior at 12 months; and iii) perceived environmental attributes and fall-related risk factors moderated the effect of a self-paced walking program on walking behavior. Randomized trial on walking and falls conducted between 2009 and 2012 involving 315 community-dwelling inactive adults ≥ 65 years living in Sydney, Australia. Measures were: mobility status, fall history, injurious fall and fear of falling (i.e., fall-related risk factors), health status, walking self-efficacy and 11 items from the neighborhood walkability scale and planned walking ≥ 150 min/week at 12 months. Participants with poorer mobility, fear of falling, and poor health perceived their surroundings as less walkable. Walking at 12 months was significantly greater in “less greenery” (AOR = 3.3, 95% CI: 1.11–9.98) and “high traffic” (AOR = 1.98, 95% CI: 1.00–3.91) neighborhoods. The intervention had greater effects in neighborhoods perceived to have poorer pedestrian infrastructure (p for interaction = 0.036). Low perceived walkability was shaped by health status and did not appear to be a barrier to walking behavior. There appears to be a greater impact of, and thus, need for, interventions to encourage walking in environments perceived not to have supportive walking infrastructure. Future studies on built environments and walking should gather information on fall-related risk factors to better understand how these characteristics interact.



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