Objectives. We analyzed factors associated with improvement in walking ability among respondents to the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. Methods. We analyzed data from 6574 respondents aged 53 years or older who reported difficulty walking several blocks, 1 block, or across the room in 2000 or 2002. We examined associations between improvement (versus no change, deterioration, or death) and baseline health status, chronic conditions, baseline walking difficulty, demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, and behavioral risk factors. Results. Among the 25% of the study population with baseline walking limitations, 29% experienced improved walking ability, 40% experienced no change in walking ability, and 31% experienced deteriorated walking ability or died. In a multivariate analysis, we found positive associations between walking improvement and more recent onset and more severe walking difficulty, being overweight, and engaging in vigorous physical activity. A history of diabetes, having any difficulty with activities of daily living, and being a current smoker were all negatively associated with improvement in walking ability. After we controlled for baseline health, improvement in walking ability was equally likely among racial and ethnic minorities and those with lower socioeconomic status. Conclusions. Interventions to reduce smoking and to increase physical activity may help improve walking ability in older Americans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health