Exercise patterns in a population of older adults

Am J Prev Med. Mar-Apr 1989;5(2):65-72.


Little is known about the extent to which older adults engage in exercise, despite recent enthusiasm for exercise among people of all ages. This report describes the exercise patterns in a well-defined population of older adults living in southern California. From 1984 through 1987, we asked 1,140 members of a previously defined adult community 50-93 years of age to report the frequency and duration of participation in 14 leisure-time activities in the two weeks preceding a physical examination. Exercises were categorized as light, moderate, or heavy according to a previously validated scale. Interviewers ascertained information on chronic disease history, cigarette smoking, physical and emotional functioning, and self-rated health. More than 90% of the group reported some physical activity in the two-week period before their evaluation. While the rates of moderate and heavy exercise decreased with age, rates of participation in and duration of light exercise actually increased. Walking was the most common form of exercise reported and was positively associated with other exercise: walkers were more likely to engage in nearly every form of exercise ascertained by the questionnaire than were nonwalkers. Of those who walked or engaged in moderate or heavy exercise, nearly 60% did so three times a week for at least 20 minutes a time. Exercise frequency was lower in those with a history of chronic disease, obesity, or current cigarette smoking, and exercise was positively associated with physical and emotional functioning and self-rated health. These data illustrate that older adults can and do exercise late into life.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • California
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires