Independent Associations Between Sedentary Behaviors and Mental, Cognitive, Physical, and Functional Health Among Older Adults in Retirement Communities

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Jan;71(1):78-83. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv103. Epub 2015 Aug 13.


Background: We examined the relationships between objective and self-reported sedentary time and health indicators among older adults residing in retirement communities.

Methods: Our cross-sectional analysis used data from 307 participants who completed baseline measurements of a physical activity trial in 11 retirement communities in San Diego County. Sedentary time was objectively measured with devices (accelerometers) and using self-reports. Outcomes assessed included emotional and cognitive health, physical function, and physical health (eg, blood pressure). Linear mixed-effects models examined associations between sedentary behavior and outcomes adjusting for demographics and accelerometer physical activity.

Results: Higher device-measured sedentary time was associated with worse objective physical function (Short Physical Performance Battery, balance task scores, 400-m walk time, chair stand time, gait speed), self-reported physical function, and fear of falling but with less sleep disturbance (all ps < .05). TV viewing was positively related to 400-m walk time (p < .05). Self-reported sedentary behavior was related to better performance on one cognitive task (trails A; p < .05).

Conclusions: Sedentary time was mostly related to poorer physical function independently of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and may be a modifiable behavior target in interventions aiming to improve physical function in older adults. Few associations were observed with self-reported sedentary behavior measures.

Keywords: Cognition; Exercise; Falls and mobility problems; Oldest-old; Retirement; Sleep; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / methods
  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Competency*
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Residential Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Self Report
  • Statistics as Topic