The impact of long-term moderate physical activity on functional performance, bone mineral density and fracture incidence in elderly women

Gerontology. 2001 Jan-Feb;47(1):15-20. doi: 10.1159/000052765.


Background: Earlier studies have shown that physical exercise and a higher workload increase muscle strength and improve gait and balance at all ages for both sexes. Published studies have, so far, failed to investigate the functional performance of elderly individuals concerning their long-term physical activity and variables of daily living.

Objective: To compare elderly women who participate in long-term, moderate exercise programmes with two age-matched groups of women from an urban and a rural community.

Methods: All participants answered a questionnaire about health, social circumstances and fractures. We measured the vibration threshold of the lower extremities, bone mineral density of the distal radius and functional performance such as muscle strength, balance and gait.

Results: The elderly, active groups performed significantly better in all functional tests and had sustained fewer fractures than the urban control group. When the comparison was made with the rural control group the differences were less obvious. The active group rated their health as better than both the control groups.

Conclusion: Elderly women, who continue with moderate exercise programmes over many years, sustain fewer fractures and have better muscle strength, balance, gait and health ratings than women in general. Whether this is the result of the exercise or inherited characters, remains to be proved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Density*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Rural Population
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Time
  • Time Factors
  • Urban Population