Older adults, chronic disease and leisure-time physical activity

Gerontology. 2009;55(1):64-72. doi: 10.1159/000141518. Epub 2008 Jun 20.


Background: Participating in regular physical activity is an important part of healthy aging. There is an increased risk for inactivity associated with aging and the risk becomes greater for adults who have a chronic disease. However, there is limited information on current physical activity levels for older adults and even less for those with chronic diseases.

Objective: Our primary objective was to determine the proportion of older adults who achieved a recommended amount of weekly physical activity (>or=1,000 kcal/week). The secondary objectives were to identify variables associated with meeting guideline leisure-time physical activity (LTPA), and to describe the type of physical activities that respondents reported across different chronic diseases.

Methods: In this study we used the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.1 (2000/2001) to report LTPA for adults aged 65 years and older. This was a population-based self-report telephone survey. We used univariate logistic regression to provide odds ratios to determine differences in activity and the likelihood of meeting guideline recommendations.

Results: For adults over 65 years of age with no chronic diseases, 30% reported meeting guideline LTPA, while only 23% met the recommendations if they had one or more chronic diseases. Factors associated with achieving the guideline amount of physical activity included a higher level of education, higher income and moderate alcohol consumption. Likelihood for not achieving the recommended level of LTPA included low BMI, pain and the presence of mobility and dexterity problems. Walking, gardening and home exercises were the three most frequent types of reported physical activities.

Conclusion: This study provides the most recent evidence to suggest that older Canadians are not active enough and this is accentuated if a chronic disease is present. It is important to develop community-based programs to facilitate LTPA, in particular for older people with a chronic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Canada
  • Chronic Disease
  • Educational Status
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Social Class