Long-term physical activity is associated with reduced arterial stiffness in older adults: longitudinal results of the SAPALDIA cohort study

Age Ageing. 2016 Jan;45(1):110-5. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afv172.


Background: longitudinal analyses of physical activity (PA) and arterial stiffness in populations of older adults are scarce. We examined associations between long-term change of PA and arterial stiffness in the Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Diseases in Adults (SAPALDIA).

Methods: we assessed PA in SAPALDIA 2 (2001-03) and SAPALDIA 3 (2010-11) using a short questionnaire with a cut-off of at least 150 min of moderate-to-vigorous PA per week for sufficient activity. Arterial stiffness was measured oscillometrically by means of the brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity (baPWV) in SAPALDIA 3. We used multivariable mixed linear regression models adjusted for several potential confounders in 2,605 persons aged 50-81.

Results: adjusted means of baPWV were significantly lower in persons with sufficient moderate-to-vigorous PA (i) in SAPALDIA 2 but not in SAPALDIA 3 (P = 0.048) and (ii) in both surveys (P = 0.001) compared with persons with insufficient activity in both surveys. There was a significant interaction between sex and the level of change in PA concerning baPWV (P = 0.03). The triples of parameter estimates describing the association between level of PA change and baPWV were not significantly different between the two sex-specific models (P = 0.07).

Conclusions: keeping up or adopting a physically active lifestyle was associated with lower arterial stiffness in older adults after a follow-up of almost a decade. Increasing the proportion of older adults adhering to PA recommendations incorporating also vigorous PA may have a considerable impact on vascular health at older age and may contribute to healthy ageing in general.

Keywords: arterial stiffness; cardiovascular disease; longitudinal; older people; physical activity; pulse wave velocity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Ankle Brachial Index
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pulse Wave Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Vascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Vascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Vascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Vascular Stiffness*
  • Young Adult