Safety Worries Prevent City Dwellers from Being Active

Anxiety limits the physical activity of low-income women more than men

TUESDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Concerns about physical safety block many residents of lower-income urban neighborhoods from regular physical exercise, according to study findings published in the October issue of PLoS Medicine.

Gary Bennett, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data involving 1,180 low-income adults living in 12 Boston-area urban housing complexes. The participants were surveyed regarding neighborhood safety opinions and completed a five-day pedometer protocol.

The researchers found that while most subjects felt safe during the day, only 36 percent felt safe at night. No link was found between men and women's physical exercise and daytime safety worries, and no link was found between men's physical exercise and nighttime safety concerns. But women who did not feel safe at night took 4,302 steps, versus 5,178 steps during the day.

Men and women who felt unsafe during the day had a smaller chance of strong physical activity (odds ratio for men 0.40, versus 0.68 for women).

"Residing in a neighborhood that is perceived to be unsafe at night is a barrier to regular physical activity among individuals, especially women, living in urban low-income housing," the authors conclude. "Feeling unsafe may also diminish confidence in the ability to be more physically active. Both of these factors may limit the effectiveness of physical activity promotion strategies delivered in similar settings."

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