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Keywords:

  • exercise;
  • functional status;
  • longitudinal study;
  • mobility;
  • physical activity

OBJECTIVES: This study examined the association of (change in) physical activity and decline in mobility performance in older men and women.

DESIGN: A 3-year prospective study using data of the Longitudinal Aging Study.

SETTING: Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS: Two thousand one hundred nine men and women aged 55 to 85.

MEASUREMENTS: Total physical activity (expressed as hours per day and kilocalories per day) and sports participation were measured using a validated, interviewer-administered questionnaire. Mobility performance was assessed using two timed tests: 6-meter walk and repeated chair stands.

RESULTS: Mobility performance declined for 45.6% of the sample. At baseline, the mean time ± standard deviation spent on total physical activity was 3.0 ± 2.1 h/d or 719 ± 543 kcal/d, and 56.6% of the sample participated in sports. Sports participation and a higher level of total physical activity, walking, or household activity were associated with a smaller mobility decline. After 3 years, total physical activity declined, and only 53.4% of those reporting sports at baseline continued doing so. Continuation of physical activity over time was associated with the smallest decline in mobility. The observed associations were similar for those with and without chronic disease (P> 0.3). The conclusions did not change after adjustment for potential confounders, including demographic and lifestyle variables, depression, and cognitive status.

CONCLUSIONS: Physical activity, and especially a regularly active lifestyle, may slow the decline in mobility performance. A beneficial effect was observed for sports and nonsports activities, independent of the presence of chronic disease.