Objectively measured physical activity in a diverse sample of older urban UK adults

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Apr;43(4):647-54. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181f36196.


Background: There are many health and social benefits of physical activity (PA) for older adults, but little is known about their activity patterns.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to objectively assess the PA patterns of older adults and the lifestyle and demographic factors associated with PA.

Methods: Participants (N = 230, aged 78.1 yr) recruited from medical practices (between 2007 and 2008) completed journey logs and wore accelerometers for 7 d. Mean daily steps, counts per minute (CPM), minutes of sedentary, light, or moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA), and frequency of journeys were analyzed (in 2009).

Results: Younger participants (age = 70-74.9 yr) were significantly (P < 0.001) more active (5660.8 steps per day) than older participants aged 80+ yr (3409.6 steps per day). Men performed significantly (P = 0.035) more minutes MVPA than women (23.1 vs 13.8 min MVPA per day). Normal weight participants were significantly (P < 0.05) more active (5368.9 steps per day) than overweight (4532.7 steps per day) and obese (3251.4 steps per day) groups. Those performing many journeys (>11.6 journeys per week) were significantly (P < 0.001) more active (5838.2 steps per day) than those performing few (<7 journeys per week) (3094.2 steps per day). PA was significantly (P < 0.001) greater in mornings (259.3 CPM) than afternoons (181.8 CPM) and evenings (102.5 CPM). Sundays were significantly (P < 0.001) less active (3331.7 steps per day) than Saturdays (4193.1 steps per day) and weekdays (4623.5 steps per day). Light activity was significantly (P = 0.005) higher in spring (3.4 h·d(-1)) than that in winter (2.7 h·d(-1)).

Conclusions: Older adults' PA patterns differ by age, gender, and weight status. Daily journeys are associated with more activity for all groups. Variability in volume of activity is high for all age groups. Temporal patterns of PA indicate that journeys out of the house for shopping and personal business are important in their contribution to PA levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy / instrumentation
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • United Kingdom
  • Urban Population*