The Relationship between Convenience of Destinations and Walking Levels in Older Women

Benefits studied:
Uses studied:
Place: Pittsburgh


This study found that older women in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania walk more overall if they live within walking distance of a trail, and those who use trails use them at least twice per week. Proximity to trails had the strongest relationship with increased walking among 14 neighborhood destinations, including parks, retail establishments, and public services.


This study’s findings provide evidence supporting the argument that trails are associated with more active residents, particularly older residents. The data for this study were carefully collected and reliable, but the sample was small. These results suggest a pattern, but they should be interpreted as a pattern and not necessarily as cause and effect because it may be the case that the women who lived near trails were on average more active, or the trails were located in neighborhoods more conducive to walking in general. Other studies (see 47, 48, 49, 52, 55, 76, 77) have specifically addressed changes in activity due to trail use.


The study was based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, population 306,062 in 2013.

Trail Type

The trails assessed were described as “biking or walking trails.”


The purpose of this study is to better understand how proximity to various destinations like trails, parks, retail businesses, and public services affected older women’s physical activity levels. Funding was provided by grants from the National Institute of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


  • One-quarter of respondents, whose average age was 74, lived within walking distance of a trail, defined as being within a 20-minute walk of their home.
  • Less than half of the respondents who lived within walking distance of a trail reported walking to it at least once a month.
  • Respondents who use the trails use them frequently, with a median of eight trips per month by those who walk to the trail. The next-most frequently visited destination was a community center, with a median of six trips per month.
  • Respondents who live within walking distance of a trail walk significantly more each month.
  • Neighborhoods with trails, parks, and department stores or hardware stores were the only destinations of the 14 identified that were associated with more walking each week. Trail access was associated with the greatest difference in amount of walking.


The authors used data from 149 older women (average age of 74 years) who completed a survey about physical activity and community destinations for walking. The authors measured activity both using self-reported activity diaries and pedometers. These data were collected in 1999.



King W., J. Brach, S. Belle, R. Killingsworth, M. Fenton, A. Kriska. 2003. “The relationship between convenience of destinations and walking levels in older women.” American Journal of Health Promotion 18(1):74-82.