Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


MacDermid, Joy C.


Many individuals worldwide, especially older individuals, do not achieve enough regular physical activity. Since falls increase with age, it is crucial to understand how environmental factors might contribute to physical activity. This thesis aimed to investigate the literature and empirical data to inform our understanding of how environmental factors might affect the physical activity and mobility of older adults. A systematic review evaluated 64 articles that investigated the relationship between greenspace, weather and season on physical activity levels of older adults aged 60 and older. Environmental factors studied included season, daylight, air quality, greenspace, and weather. Weather conditions include temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity, barometric pressure, and cloud cover. Greenspace, moderate temperatures, and longer daylight were associated with more physical activity. A sample of older adults extracted from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) who had incurred a wrist fracture were evaluated to determine the relationship between precipitation, active living environment index, barometric pressure, relative humidity, temperature, sulfur dioxide, ozone, PM2.5 and NO2 on PASE levels. Regression analysis demonstrated that sulfur dioxide and the active living environment (ALE) index were correlated with a higher PASE score. Overall, this information should be considered by urban planners and landscape architects to design cities/towns that would encourage physical activity. This also has implications for health professionals in planning adaptive physical activity strategies in collaboration with older adults; and for policymakers to consider the potential impact of climate change on the physical activity levels of older adults in different communities.

Summary for Lay Audience

People over 65 sometimes have difficulty maintaining their physical activity levels. About half of people over 65 do not meet Canadian physical activity guidelines, and by age 74, only 28% do so. Since physical activity is an essential part of healthy aging, this research summarizes what is known in research studies that have been published about how environmental factors can be related to physical activity. The specific environmental factors studied included season, daylight, air quality, greenspace, and weather. Therefore, understanding how these environmental factors impact the physical activity levels of older adults will also provide insight into the implications on health this might have for the overall health of the general population. Healthcare professionals will be able to better educate patients on the importance of physical activity and allow them to provide modified activities based on factors that might prevent physical activity. Urban planners and policymakers may also use this information to help build or design facilities that support and encourage physical activity. Lastly, environmental design, as well as architecture, should focus on optimizing greenspaces and conservation efforts. These should all be considered when influencing increased physical activity levels in older adults.