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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Neighbourhood green space, physical function and participation in physical activities among elderly men: the Caerphilly Prospective study

Yi Gong12*, John Gallacher2, Stephen Palmer2 and David Fone2

Author Affiliations

1 Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK

2 Institute of Primary Care & Public Health, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:40  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-40

Published: 19 March 2014

Abstract

Background

The built environment in which older people live plays an important role in promoting or inhibiting physical activity. Most work on this complex relationship between physical activity and the environment has excluded people with reduced physical function or ignored the difference between groups with different levels of physical function. This study aims to explore the role of neighbourhood green space in determining levels of participation in physical activity among elderly men with different levels of lower extremity physical function.

Method

Using data collected from the Caerphilly Prospective Study (CaPS) and green space data collected from high resolution Landmap true colour aerial photography, we first investigated the effect of the quantity of neighbourhood green space and the variation in neighbourhood vegetation on participation in physical activity for 1,010 men aged 66 and over in Caerphilly county borough, Wales, UK. Second, we explored whether neighbourhood green space affects groups with different levels of lower extremity physical function in different ways.

Results

Increasing percentage of green space within a 400 meters radius buffer around the home was significantly associated with more participation in physical activity after adjusting for lower extremity physical function, psychological distress, general health, car ownership, age group, marital status, social class, education level and other environmental factors (OR = 1.21, 95% CI 1.05, 1.41). A statistically significant interaction between the variation in neighbourhood vegetation and lower extremity physical function was observed (OR = 1.92, 95% CI 1.12, 3.28).

Conclusion

Elderly men living in neighbourhoods with more green space have higher levels of participation in regular physical activity. The association between variation in neighbourhood vegetation and regular physical activity varied according to lower extremity physical function. Subjects reporting poor lower extremity physical function living in neighbourhoods with more homogeneous vegetation (i.e. low variation) were more likely to participate in regular physical activity than those living in neighbourhoods with less homogeneous vegetation (i.e. high variation). Good lower extremity physical function reduced the adverse effect of high variation vegetation on participation in regular physical activity. This provides a basis for the future development of novel interventions that aim to increase levels of physical activity in later life, and has implications for planning policy to design, preserve, facilitate and encourage the use of green space near home.

Keywords:
Green space; Lower extremity physical function; Physical activity; Elderly men