Background: Physical activity and adiposity are important predictors of mortality, even in older individuals. However, it is unclear how much physical activity is needed to prevent weight gain in older persons.
Purpose: To examine the associations of different amounts of physical activity with weight gain prevention in older men.
Methods: A total of 5973 healthy men (mean age, 65.0 years) from the Harvard Alumni Health Study were followed from 1988 to 1998. At baseline (1988), in 1993 and 1998, men reported their recreational physical activity and body weight. Physical activity was categorized as: <7.5 metabolic equivalent (MET)-h per week (7.5 MET-h per week corresponds to the minimum required by the 2008 US federal guidelines), 7.5 to <21 MET-h per week (21 MET-h per week corresponds to the 2002 Institute of Medicine (IOM) guideline) and 21 MET-h per week. Meaningful weight gain was defined as an increase of ≥3% of body weight.
Results: Overall, weight tended to be stable over any 5-year period; mean change, -0.08 (s.d.=4.44) kg. However, ∼21% of men experienced meaningful weight gain over any 5-year period. In multivariate analyses, compared with men expending ≥ 21 MET-h per week, those expending 7.5 to <21 MET-h per week had an odds ratio (OR) of 1.35 (95% confidence interval: 1.03, 1.77) for meaningful weight gain, and men expending <7.5 MET-h per week, an OR of 1.16 (1.01, 1.33; P trend=0.09).
Conclusions: Among older men, those with lesser levels of physical activity were more likely to gain weight than men satisfying the 2002 IOM guidelines of ≥21 MET-h per week (∼60 min day(-1) of moderate-intensity physical activity).