Leisure-Time and Occupational Physical Activity in Early and Late Adulthood in Relation to Later Life Physical Functioning

J Phys Act Health. 2016 Oct;13(10):1079-1087. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2015-0664. Epub 2016 Aug 16.


Background: Physical activity (PA) has beneficial effects on older age physical functioning, but longitudinal studies with follow-ups extending up to decades are few. We investigated the association between leisure-time PA (LTPA) and occupational PA (OPA) from early to late adulthood in relation to later life performance-based physical functioning.

Methods: The study involved 1260 people aged 60 to 79 years who took part in assessments of physical functioning (Short Physical Performance Battery [SPPB] test, 10-m maximal walking test, and grip strength test). Participants' data on earlier life LTPA/OPA (age range 25 to 74 years) were received from the previous studies (average follow-up 13.4 years). Logistic, linear, and censored regression models were used to assess the associations between LTPA/OPA earlier in life and subsequent physical functioning.

Results: A high level of LTPA earlier in life was associated with a lower risk of having difficulties on the SPPB test (odds ratio [OR]: 0.37; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.24-0.58) and especially on the chair rise test (OR: 0.42; 95% CI, 0.27-0.64) in old age. Heavy manual work predicted difficulties on SPPB (OR: 1.91; 95% CI, 1.22-2.98) and the chair rise test (OR: 1.75; 95% CI, 1.14-2.69) and poorer walking speed (β = .10, P = .005).

Conclusions: This study highlights the importance of LTPA on later life functioning, but also indicates the inverse effects that may be caused by heavy manual work.

Keywords: aging; disability; epidemiology; functional performance; gerontology; physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Occupations*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Walking