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Am J Public Health. 1996 January; 86(1): 57–61.
PMCID: PMC1380361

The effect of walking on lower body disability among older blacks and whites.


OBJECTIVES. This study investigated the association between regular physical activity and risk of or increase in lower body disability in older, community dwelling Blacks and Whites. METHODS. The present study used the 1984 to 1990 Longitudinal Study on Aging, which included 413 Black and 3428 White self-respondents 70 years of age or older. Discrete-time hazard models provided estimates of the effects of self-reported walking frequency, and regular exercise on lower, body disability among Black and White self-respondents. RESULTS. Whites who reported walking 4 to 7 days per week at baseline vs those who reported never walking 1 mile (1.6 km) or more experienced a one-third lower risk of increased disability. Blacks who reported walking 4 to 7 days per week experienced a two-thirds lower risk. Walking 4 to 7 days per week reduced the risk of disability onset by 50% to 80% on all five disability items within the Black sample and by 50% on two items within the White sample. CONCLUSIONS. Among older Blacks, walking 4 to 7 days per week had a greater protective effect against lower body decline than any of the other factors, including age and chronic conditions.

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