Putting their best foot forward: walking is positively associated with social activities of homecare clients


  • N. Notthoff
  • V. Garms-Homolová
  • A. Declerq
  • L. Van Eenoo
  • P.V. Jónsson
  • H. van der Roest
  • H. van Hout


Background: Walking speed and distance have emerged as reliable predictors of physical and cognitive health in old age. We examined whether these measures and two related items (time spent exercising, number of days outside in the last three days) are relevant predictors of everyday activities (housework) and for components of socioemotional status (depressed mood, negativity, fear, anger, social participation, loneliness). Methods: Participants were 2,584 community-dwelling homecare clients (65–105 years, M=83.09) from six European countries assessed with the interRAI Homecare instrument. Exclusion criteria were severe foot problems, being bedridden or comatose, and receiving palliative care. Cross-sectional path models were implemented in MPlus. Findings: Longer distances walked were associated with higher scores on capacity for and actual performance of housework (b=-.48 SE=.06, p<.01, and b=-.42, SE=.06, p<.01, respectively). A longer duration of walks was associated with more frequent participation in hobbies (b=.29, SE=.06, p<.01) and more visits with family and friends (b=.13, SE=.04, p<.01). More time spent exercising was associated with higher scores on capacity for and actual performance of housework (b=-.39, SE=.06, p<.01 and b=-.32, SE=.06, p<.01, respectively), more participation in hobbies (b=.25, SE=.05, p<.01) and less decrease in social participation (b=-.19, SE=.05, p<.01). All associations held when controlling for ADLs and health. Discussion: Walking and physical exercise may help to preserve homecare clients’ engagement in everyday and social activities. Distinct facets of walking and exercise seem to be relevant for activities in different domains.