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Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014 Mar 19;11(1):40. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-11-40.

Neighbourhood green space, physical function and participation in physical activities among elderly men: the Caerphilly Prospective study.

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  • 1Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK.



The built environment in which older people live plays an important role in promoting or inhibiting physical activity. Most work on this complex relationship between physical activity and the environment has excluded people with reduced physical function or ignored the difference between groups with different levels of physical function. This study aims to explore the role of neighbourhood green space in determining levels of participation in physical activity among elderly men with different levels of lower extremity physical function.


Using data collected from the Caerphilly Prospective Study (CaPS) and green space data collected from high resolution Landmap true colour aerial photography, we first investigated the effect of the quantity of neighbourhood green space and the variation in neighbourhood vegetation on participation in physical activity for 1,010 men aged 66 and over in Caerphilly county borough, Wales, UK. Second, we explored whether neighbourhood green space affects groups with different levels of lower extremity physical function in different ways.


Increasing percentage of green space within a 400 meters radius buffer around the home was significantly associated with more participation in physical activity after adjusting for lower extremity physical function, psychological distress, general health, car ownership, age group, marital status, social class, education level and other environmental factors (OR = 1.21, 95% CI 1.05, 1.41). A statistically significant interaction between the variation in neighbourhood vegetation and lower extremity physical function was observed (OR = 1.92, 95% CI 1.12, 3.28).


Elderly men living in neighbourhoods with more green space have higher levels of participation in regular physical activity. The association between variation in neighbourhood vegetation and regular physical activity varied according to lower extremity physical function. Subjects reporting poor lower extremity physical function living in neighbourhoods with more homogeneous vegetation (i.e. low variation) were more likely to participate in regular physical activity than those living in neighbourhoods with less homogeneous vegetation (i.e. high variation). Good lower extremity physical function reduced the adverse effect of high variation vegetation on participation in regular physical activity. This provides a basis for the future development of novel interventions that aim to increase levels of physical activity in later life, and has implications for planning policy to design, preserve, facilitate and encourage the use of green space near home.

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