Light and sporadic physical activity overlooked by current guidelines makes older women more active than older men

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 May 2;14(1):59. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0519-6.


Background: Men are generally believed to be more physically active than women when evaluated using current physical activity (PA) guidelines, which count only moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in bouts lasting at least 10 min. However, it remains unclear men are truly more physically active provided that all-intensity PA are evaluated. This population based cross-sectional study aimed to examine gender differences in patterns of objectively-assessed PA in older adults.

Methods: One thousand two hundred ten community-dwelling Japanese older adults who were originally randomly selected from residential registry of three municipalities were asked to respond a questionnaire and wear an accelerometer (HJA-350IT, Omron Healthcare). The prevalence of achieving current PA guidelines, ≥150 min/week MVPA in bouts lasting at least 10 min, was calculated. Gender differences in volume of each-intensity activity (METs-hour) were assessed by analysis of covariance after adjustment for age and wear time.

Results: Data from 450 (255 men, mean 74 years) participants who had valid accelerometer data were analyzed. Women were less likely to meet the guidelines (men: 31.0, women: 21.5%; p < 0.05). However, women accumulated more light-intensity PA (LPA) and short-bout (1-9 min) MVPA, and thus established higher total volume of PA (men: 22.0 METs-hour/day, women: 23.9 METs-hour/day) (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Older women were less active when evaluated against current PA guidelines, but more active by total PA. Considering accumulated evidence on health benefits of LPA and short-bout MVPA, our findings highlight the potential for the limitation of assessing PA using current PA guidelines.

Keywords: Accelerometry; Elderly; Epidemiology; Guideline; Physical activity; Recommendation; Sedentary.

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires