Effect of physical activity on functional status among older middle-age adults with arthritis

Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Dec 15;53(6):879-85. doi: 10.1002/art.21579.


Objective: To determine the effect of leisure time and work-related physical activity on changes in physical functioning among 3,554 nationally representative survey respondents, ages 53-63 years in 1994, with arthritis and joint symptoms, interviewed in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

Methods: In 1992-1994, light and vigorous exercise items were empirically categorized into recommended, insufficient, and inactive leisure time physical activity levels using data from the HRS. Leisure and work-related physical activity levels in 1994 were used to predict 1996 functional decline or improvement, controlling for baseline functional difficulties, health status, sociodemographic characteristics, and behavioral risk factors.

Results: Whereas 29.7% of respondents reported functional declines in 1996, 38.6% of those with baseline difficulties in 1994 reported improvement. Compared with inactive respondents, recommended and insufficient leisure time physical activity were equally protective against functional decline (odds ratio [OR] 0.59 and 0.62, respectively; P < 0.0001). Higher levels of physical activity were also modestly associated with functional improvement among respondents with baseline functional difficulties (OR 1.47, P = 0.05 and OR 1.45, P = 0.01, respectively). Work-related physical activity was not a significant predictor of decline or improvement.

Conclusion: Given the high prevalence of arthritis, even modest increases in rates of lifestyle physical activity among older adults could make a substantial contribution to disability-free life expectancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Arthritis / physiopathology*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Employment*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged