Leisure-Time Physical Activity Reduces Total and Cardiovascular Mortality and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence in Older Adults

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 Mar;65(3):504-510. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14694. Epub 2016 Dec 26.


Objectives: To determine whether leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) is independently associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality and with incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke in older adults.

Design: Population-based cohort study (median follow-up 11.8 years).

Setting: Community, five Finnish provinces.

Participants: Men and women aged 65 to 74 who participated in a baseline risk factor survey between 1997 and 2007 in Finland (N = 2,456).

Measurements: The study protocol included a self-administered questionnaire, health examination at the study site, and blood sample for laboratory analysis. LTPA was classified into three levels: low, moderate, high. Mortality data were obtained from the National Causes of Death Register and data on incident CVD (coronary heart disease, stroke) events from the National Hospital Discharge Register.

Results: Multifactorial-adjusted (age, area, study year, sex, smoking, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, serum cholesterol, education, marital status) risks of total mortality (moderate: hazard ratio (HR) = 0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.50-0.74; high: HR = 0.47, 95% CI = 0.34-0.63, P for trend <.001), CVD mortality (moderate: HR = 0.46, 95% CI = 0.33-0.64; high: HR = 0.34, 95% CI = 0.20-0.59, P for trend <.001), and an incident CVD event (moderate HR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.54-0.88; high: HR = 0.55, 95% CI = 0.38-0.79, P for trend <.001) were lower for those with moderate or high LTPA levels than for those with low LTPA levels. Further adjustment for self-reported inability to perform LTPA did not change the associations remarkably.

Conclusions: Baseline LTPA reduces the risk of total and CVD mortality and incident CVD events in older adults independently of the major known CVD risk factors. The protective effect of LTPA is dose dependent.

Keywords: cardiovascular diseases; cerebrovascular disorders; exercise; heart disease; mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cause of Death*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*