Purpose: To investigate the relationship between duration and intensity of physical activity and disability 10 years later, and to investigate the possible effect of selective mortality.
Method: Longitudinal data of 560 men aged 70?-?89 years, without disability at baseline from the Finland, Italy and The Netherlands Elderly (FINE) Study was used. Physical activity in 1990 was based on activities like walking, bicycling and gardening. Disability severity (three categories) in 1990 and 2000 was based on instrumental activities, mobility and basic activities of daily living.
Results: Men in the highest tertile of total physical activity had a lower risk of disability than men in the lowest tertile (odds ratio (OR) 0.46; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.26-0.84). This was due to duration of physical activity (OR highest tertile 0.42; 95% CI: 0.23-0.78 compared to the lowest tertile). Intensity of physical activity was not associated with disability. Addition of deceased men as fourth category leaded to weaker associations between physical activity and disability (OR highest tertile 0.67; 95% CI: 0.44-1.02).
Conclusions: Even in old age among relatively healthy men, a physically active lifestyle was inversely related to disability. To prevent disability duration of physical activity seems to be more important than intensity.