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Gender differences in walking (for leisure, transport and in total) across adult life: a systematic review

Pollard, Tessa M.; Wagnild, Janelle M.

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Background: The aim of this systematic review was to examine gender differences in walking for leisure, transport and in total in adults living in high-income countries, and to assess whether gender differences in walking practices change across the life-course. Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted of publications dated 1995 to 2015. Papers providing quantitative data on participation in walking of both men and women aged at least 18 years in a high-income country were screened for the quality of the data on gender differences in walking. Data were extracted and results were synthesised using forest plots and narrative summary. Results: Thirty-six studies were included in the review: 18 reported on walking for leisure, 16 on walking for transport (in total, or for particular purposes), and 14 on total walking. Most (33) studies provided data comparing the proportion of men and women who walked (at all or for a minimum duration) over a defined period, usually one week. There was consistent evidence that more women than men walk for leisure, although effect sizes were small. However, this effect varies by age: more younger women than younger men walk for leisure, but the gender difference diminishes with age and appears to reverse in the oldest age groups. Taking all ages together, there was no consistent gender difference in walking for transport or in total walking, although the small number of studies reporting on walking to undertake errands suggested that more women than men walk for this purpose. Conclusions: While there is little evidence that levels of total walking consistently vary by gender, our findings suggest that there are consistent gender differences in participation in walking for some purposes, including for leisure, and that there are gender differences in the impact of age on walking. We conclude that more research is needed to improve our understanding of how walking fits into the lives of women and men across the life-course, especially in relation to gender differences in the impact of aging on walking. Prospero registration: PROSPERO registration number: CRD42015025961.


Pollard, T. M., & Wagnild, J. M. (2017). Gender differences in walking (for leisure, transport and in total) across adult life: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 17(1), Article 341.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 8, 2017
Online Publication Date Apr 20, 2017
Publication Date Apr 20, 2017
Deposit Date Apr 28, 2017
Publicly Available Date May 1, 2017
Journal BMC Public Health
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 1
Article Number 341


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Copyright Statement
© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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