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Open Access Research

Getting out and about in older adults: the nature of daily trips and their association with objectively assessed physical activity

Mark G Davis1*, Kenneth R Fox1, Melvyn Hillsdon2, Jo C Coulson1, Debbie J Sharp3, Afroditi Stathi4 and Janice L Thompson1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, School for Policy Studies University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

2 School of Sport and Health, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

3 Academic Unit of Primary Health Care, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

4 School for Health, University of Bath, UK

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:116  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-116

Published: 21 October 2011

Abstract

Background

A key public health objective is increasing health-enhancing physical activity (PA) for older adults (OAs). Daily trip frequency is independently associated with objectively assessed PA volumes (OAs). Little is known about correlates and these trips' transport mode, and how these elements relate to PA. Purpose: to describe the frequency, purpose, and travel mode of daily trips in OAs, and their association with participant characteristics and objectively-assessed PA.

Methods

Participants (n = 214, aged 78.1 SD 5.7 years), completed a seven-day trips log recording daily-trip frequency, purpose and transport mode. Concurrently participants wore an accelerometer which provided mean daily steps (steps·d-1), and minutes of moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA·d-1). Participants' physical function (PF) was estimated and demographic, height and weight data obtained.

Results

Trip frequency was associated with gender, age, physical function, walking-aid use, educational attainment, number of amenities within walking distance and cars in the household. Participants reported 9.6 (SD 4.2) trips per week (trips·wk-1). Most trips (61%) were by car (driver 44%, passenger 17%), 30% walking or cycling (active) and 9% public transport/other. Driving trips·wk-1 were more common in participants who were males (5.3 SD 3.6), well-educated (5.0 SD 4.3), high functioning (5.1 SD 4.6), younger (5.6 SD 4.9), affluent area residents (5.1 SD 4.2) and accessing > one car (7.2 SD 4.7). Active trips·wk-1 were more frequent in participants who were males (3.4 SD 3.6), normal weight (3.2 SD 3.4), not requiring walking aids (3.5 SD 3.3), well-educated (3.7 SD 0.7), from less deprived neighbourhoods (3.9 SD 3.9) and with ≥ 8 amenities nearby (4.4 SD 3.8).

Public transport, and active trip frequency, were significantly associated with steps·d-1 (p < 0.001), even after adjustment for other trip modes and potential confounders. Public transport, active, or car driving trips were independently associated with minutes MVPA·d-1 (p < 0.01).

Conclusions

Daily trips are associated with objectively-measured PA as indicated by daily MVPA and steps. Public transport and active trips are associated with greater PA than those by car, especially as a car passenger. Strategies encouraging increased trips, particularly active or public transport trips, in OAs can potentially increase their PA and benefit public health.