The effects of neighborhood environments on the level of physical activity among older african american women in Texas



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The older African American women living Texas fall into one of the most inactive population segments. Recently, the importance of socio-ecological models on human health behavior and more complex associations between variables have been discussed. Therefore, this cross-sectional study focuses on investigating the trends in physical activity among older African American women, exploring the effects of actual environmental variables that might encourage or discourage their physical activity, and discovering any plausible mediating effects between environmental factors and older African American women?s physical activity. The study sample is composed of African American women aged 55 to 84 who reside in independent housing in Bryan, Texas. A total of 282 older African American women?s addresses were systematically selected and a self-administrated survey questionnaire documenting the level of physical activity, psychological well-being, sense of community, perception of safety, physical health status, and background information was collected for each of the women. The environmental influences of natural and built environments were defined using two boundaries: 1) nearby home level (0.5 mile street distance), and 2) neighborhood level (1 mile street distance) from the participant?s house. The natural and built environments were measured using a Geographic Information System (GIS) and aerial photographs. Results showed that a) walking was the most prevalent type of physical activity and streets were the most popular places for older African American women; b) at the nearby home level, greenery and land use mixture were positively associated with older African American women?s physical activity while street pattern and access to commercial areas influenced their physical activity at the neighborhood level; and c) perceptions of crime-related neighborhood problems had significant mediating effects decreasing older African American women?s physical activity. The findings revealed that the environmental variables had a distance effects on older women?s physical activity. In addition, on a policy level, neighborhood problems should be dealt with using careful insight in order to encourage physical activity.