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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Walking to work in Canada: health benefits, socio-economic characteristics and urban-regional variations

Peter Kitchen1*, Allison Williams1 and James Chowhan2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

2 DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:212  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-212

Published: 4 April 2011

Abstract

Background

There is mounting concern over increasing rates of physical inactivity and overweight/obesity among children and adult in Canada. There is a clear link between the amount of walking a person does and his or her health. The purpose of this paper is to assess the health factors, socio-economic characteristics and urban-regional variations of walking to work among adults in Canada.

Methods

Data is drawn from two cycles of the Canadian Community Health Survey: 2001 and 2005. The study population is divided into three groups: non-walkers, lower-duration walkers and high-duration walkers. Logistic regression modeling tests the association between levels of walking and health related outcomes (diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, BMI, physical activity), socio-economic characteristics (sex, age, income, education) and place of residence (selected Census Metropolitan Areas).

Results

In 2005, the presence of diabetes and high blood pressure was not associated with any form of walking. Adults within the normal weight range were more likely to be high-duration walkers. Females and younger people were more likely to be lower-duration walkers but less likely to be high-duration walkers. There was a strong association between SES (particularly relative disadvantage) and walking to work. In both 2001 and 2005, the conditions influencing walking to work were especially prevalent in Canada's largest city, Toronto, as well as in several small to medium sized urban areas including Halifax, Kingston, Hamilton, Regina, Calgary and Victoria.

Conclusion

A number of strategies can be followed to increase levels of walking in Canada. It is clear that for many people walking to work is not possible. However, strategies can be developed to encourage adults to incorporate walking into their daily work and commuting routines. These include mass transit walking and workplace walking programs.