Characteristics of physical activity levels among trail users in a U.S. national sample

John J Librett, Michelle M Yore, Thomas L Schmid
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2006, 31 (5): 399-405

BACKGROUND: The Task Force on Community Preventive Services strongly recommends environmental interventions that include enhanced access to opportunities for physical activity, such as walking and cycling trails. Although accumulating evidence indicates that trails can be effective in increasing physical activity, little is known about trail users.

METHODS: Cross-sectional analysis of a national sample of 3717 adults from the HealthStyles and ConsumerStyles surveys using logistic regression to determine physical activity patterns and sociodemographic correlates related to trail use, and to identify support regarding trail development policies.

RESULTS: Almost 13% (12.7%) of the sample reported using trails at least once a month and 24.3% at least once a week. People who reported using trails at least once a week were twice as likely than people who reported rarely or never using trails to meet physical activity recommendations (odds ratio=2.3, 95% confidence interval=1.9-2.8). Nearly half (43.6%) of the non-trail users supported expanded public spaces for people to exercise, and 36.4% of the non-trail users reported that they would be willing to pay more taxes to build more parks and trails in their community.

CONCLUSIONS: Community trails facilitate physical activity, and almost half of frequent trail users report that access to trails and other green space is important in choosing a place to live. These results support the need for prospective research on whether newly built trails promote physical activity in previously inactive people.

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