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Open Access Research article

Measuring walking within and outside the neighborhood in Chinese elders: reliability and validity

Ester Cerin1*, Anthony Barnett1, Cindy HP Sit1, Man-chin Cheung2, Lok-chun Janet Lee1, Sai-yin Ho3 and Wai-man Chan2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Human Performance, The University of Hong Kong, 111-113 Pokfulam Rd., SAR, Hong Kong

2 Elderly Health Service, Department of Health, Room 3502-4, 35/F Hopewell Centre, 183 Queens Road East, Wan Chai, SAR, Hong Kong

3 School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, SAR, Hong Kong

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:851  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-851

Published: 9 November 2011



Walking is a preferred, prevalent and recommended activity for aging populations and is influenced by the neighborhood built environment. To study this influence it is necessary to differentiate whether walking occurs within or outside of the neighborhood. The Neighborhood Physical Activity Questionnaire (NPAQ) collects information on setting-specific physical activity, including walking, inside and outside one's neighborhood. While the NPAQ has shown to be a reliable measure in adults, its reliability in older adults is unknown. Additionally its validity and the influence of type of neighborhood on reliability and validity have yet to be explored.


The NPAQ walking component was adapted for Chinese speaking elders (NWQ-CS). Ninety-six Chinese elders, stratified by social economic status and neighborhood walkability, wore an accelerometer and completed a log of walks for 7 days. Following the collection of valid data the NWQ-CS was interviewer-administered. Fourteen to 20 days (average of 17 days) later the NWQ-CS was re-administered. Test-retest reliability and validity of the NWQ-CS were assessed.


Reliability and validity estimates did not differ with type of neighborhood. NWQ-CS measures of walking showed moderate to excellent reliability. Reliability was generally higher for estimates of weekly frequency than minutes of walking. Total weekly minutes of walking were moderately related to all accelerometry measures. Moderate-to-strong associations were found between the NWQ-CS and log-of-walks variables. The NWQ-CS yielded statistically significantly lower mean values of total walking, weekly minutes of walking for transportation and weekly frequency of walking for transportation outside the neighborhood than the log-of-walks.


The NWQ-CS showed measurement invariance across types of neighborhoods. It is a valid measure of walking for recreation and frequency of walking for transport. However, it may systematically underestimate the duration of walking for transport in samples that engage in high levels of this type of walking.