Gender and Age Differences in Levels, Types and Locations of Physical Activity among Older Adults Living in Car-Dependent Neighborhoods

UMMS Affiliation

UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center; Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; Department of Orthopedics and Physical Rehabilitation; Meyers Primary Care Institute

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavioral Medicine | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Exercise Science | Gender and Sexuality | Geriatrics | Preventive Medicine | Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion


BACKGROUND: A thorough understanding of gender differences in physical activity is critical to effective promotion of active living in older adults.

OBJECTIVES: To examine gender and age differences in levels, types and locations of physical activity.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional observation.

SETTING: Car-dependent urban and rural neighborhoods in Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA.

PARTICIPANTS: 111 men and 103 women aged 65 years and older.

MEASUREMENTS: From 2012 to 2014, participants were queried on type, frequency and location of physical activity. Participants wore an accelerometer for 7 consecutive days.

RESULTS: Compared to women, men had a higher mean daily step count (mean (SD) 4385 (2122) men vs. 3671(1723) women, p=0.008). Men reported higher frequencies of any physical activity and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and a lower frequency of physical activity inside the home. Mean daily step counts and frequency of physical activity outside the home decreased progressively with age for both men and women. Women had a sharper decline in frequencies of self-reported physical activity. Men had a significant decrease in utilitarian walking, which women did not (p=0.07). Among participants who reported participation in any physical activity (n=190), more women indicated exercising indoors more often (59% vs. 44%, p=0.04). The three most commonly cited locations for physical activity away from home for both genders were streets or sidewalks, shopping malls, and membership-only facilities (e.g., YMCA or YWCA). The most common types of physical activity, performed at least once in a typical month, with over 40% of both genders reporting, included light housework, brisk walking, leisurely walking, and stretching.

CONCLUSION: Levels, types and location preferences of physical activity differed substantially by gender. Levels of physical activity decreased progressively with age, with greater decline among women. Consideration of these gender differences is necessary to improve the effectiveness of active living promotion programs among older adults.


UMCCTS funding, Gender, aging, location, physical activity, type

DOI of Published Version



J Frailty Aging. 2017;6(3):129-135. doi: 10.14283/jfa.2017.15. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of frailty and aging

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID