The Association of Natural Elements With Physical Activity Intensity During Trail Use by Older Adults

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Public health efforts to promote trail use among older adults could be an effective strategy for increasing physical activity among older adults. However, research is needed to better understand factors that influence older adults’ use of trails.

Purpose:

To examine the association between variations in natural elements (ie, season, weather, temperature) and older adults’ overall trail use and physical activity intensity during trail use.

Methods:

A rail-trail in South Carolina was systematically evaluated (2006–2009) using The System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities.

Results:

The majority (74.2%) of the 1053 older trail users observed were walking; 25.9% were observed in vigorous activity. Older adults were most often observed using the trail in the spring (40.1%), sunny weather (76.8%), and moderate temperatures (56.2%). Significant differences in activity type by natural element variables were identified.

Conclusions:

When promoting trail use among older adults, natural elements should be considered.

Price, Reed, and Long are with the Dept of Health Sciences, Furman University, Greenville, SC. Maslow is with the Carolinas HealthCare System, Dickson Institute for Health Studies, Charlotte, NC. Hooker is with the Prevention Research Center, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.