Purpose: To assess health-related quality of life (HRQL) in relation to walking habits and fitness status in older persons. A second aim was to examine fitness status as a mediator in the relation between walking habits and HRQL.
Methods: A cross-sectional population-based sample of 75-year-olds from Gothenburg, Sweden, was examined (n = 698, response rate 61 %). Walking habits were assessed as weekly frequency and duration. HRQL was assessed with the Short Form-36 (SF-36) and fitness with maximal and self-selected gait speed, chair-stand, stair-climbing capacity, grip strength and one-leg stance.
Results: The proportion of 75-year-olds who attained recommended levels of moderate physical activity (≥ 150 min/week), described as walking, was 60 %. This was positively associated with most subscales of SF-36 and with all fitness tests except grip strength. Maximal gait speed was the fitness test with the highest correlations to all SF-36 subscales. Fitness, described with maximal gait speed, was a partial mediator in most relations between walking habits and SF-36. After adjustment for confounders, associations between regular walking and SF-36 were no longer significant, except for Role Physical, General Health and Role Emotional in women.
Conclusions: Attaining recommended levels of walking, as well as a high fitness status, is positively associated with several aspects of HRQL in older persons. Fitness, described with maximal gait speed, seems to have a partial role in the relation between walking habits and HRQL, suggesting that other mechanisms are also involved.