The Environmental Protection Agency created the National Walkability Index (Index) to compare and analyze walkability among US communities. Index elements include design, distance to transit, and diversity of land uses. Associations between the Index and walking behavior have not been examined. This study describes associations between the Index and transportation and leisure walking among US adults.
Past week self-reported participation in transportation and leisure walking among adults (n = 33,672) was obtained from the 2015 Cancer Control Supplement of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and analysis completed in 2019. Index scores were linked to NHIS data based on the respondent’s residence and classified into least, below average, above average, and most walkable communities. Associations between Index categories and walking were examined with regression models. Overall, the Index was associated with a higher likelihood of walking, especially for transportation.
Transportation walking was more common in areas with higher walkability (21.6%–51.6%, least to most walkable). Leisure walking was also more common with greater walkability (48.4%–56.5%, least to most walkable). Transportation and leisure walking by Index categories in urban areas were similar to the overall population; however, it was not associated with walking in rural areas. US adults living in more walkable areas report more transportation and leisure walking, especially among urban areas.
Consistent with elements in the Index, associations were stronger for transportation than leisure walking. Findings support the use of the Walkability Index by researchers, professionals, and other relevant stakeholders as a viable indicator of walkability.