Objective: To study the association between physical activity and mortality in older men and women.
Design: A community-based cohort study: the Jerusalem 70-Year-Olds Longitudinal Study.
Participants: A systematically selected and representative sample of all residents of the western part of Jerusalem born in 1920-1921: 456 subjects, 25% of the total population.
Measurements: An extensive social and medical profile was developed by extensive interview and physical and ancillary examination. Medical diagnoses were established and subjects reported their level of regular physical activity.
Results: Unadjusted mortality at 6-year follow-up was significantly greater for subjects reporting no regular exercise than for those walking as little as 4 hours weekly (23.4% vs 9.9%, odds ratio (OR) = 2.77; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.64-4.69). The significance of these benefits was demonstrated for males as well as for females (30.28% vs 12.14%, P < .001, 16.19% vs 6.86%, P = .036, respectively). Logistic regression analysis demonstrated the survival advantage to be independent of gender, smoking, subjective economic hardship, or preexisting medical conditions (hypertension; diabetes; coronary artery, cerebrovascular, renal, and respiratory diseases; anemia; and malignancy). Increased regularity of activity correlated with declining mortality. The odds ratios for mortality compared to the sedentary group were 0.73 (CI, 0.33-1.62) for those doing sports activity at least twice weekly, 0.41 (CI, 0.19-0.91) for those walking at least 4 hours weekly, 0.14 (CI, 0.04-0.50) for those exercising daily, and 0.40 (CI, 0.22-0.72) for all levels of physical activity combined.
Conclusions: These results suggest that regular physical activity confers increased survival in the aged. It is proposed that older people be encouraged to engage in regular, moderate physical activity.