Seasonality of physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep in a middle-aged and elderly population: The Rotterdam study

Maturitas. 2018 Apr:110:41-50. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2018.01.016. Epub 2018 Jan 27.


Introduction: Physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB) have seasonal patterns. It remains unclear how these patterns are associated with sleep, meteorological factors, and health.

Methods: Activity levels were continuously measured with an accelerometer for seven days between July 2011 and May 2016, among middle-aged (50-64 years), young-elderly (65-74 years) and old-elderly (≥75 years) participants of a population-based Dutch cohort study (n = 1116). Meteorological factors (ambient temperature, wind speed, sunlight hours, precipitation, and minimum visibility) were locally recorded. We first examined the seasonality of PA, SB, and nighttime sleep, stratified by age group. Second, we examined the influence of meteorological factors. Third, we modeled the potential seasonality of the all-cause mortality risk due to the seasonality of PA and SB, by using previously published relative risks.

Results: Levels of light and moderate-to-vigorous PA were higher in summer than in winter among middle-aged (seasonal variation = 18.1 and 14.8 min/day) and young-elderly adults (12.8 and 8.6 min/day). The pattern was explained by ambient temperature and sunlight hours. Nighttime sleep was 31.8 min/day longer in winter among middle-aged adults. SB did not show a seasonal pattern. No seasonality in activity levels was observed among old-elderly adults. The all-cause mortality risk may be higher in winter than in summer due to the accumulation of low levels of moderate to vigorous PA and high levels of SB.

Conclusion: PA has a larger degree of seasonality than SB and nighttime sleep among middle-aged and young-elderly adults. SB appears strongly ingrained in daily routine. Recommending the interruption of SB with light PA might be a good starting point for public health institutions.

Keywords: All-cause mortality; Life expectancy; Meteorological factors; Nighttime sleep; Physical activity; Seasonal variation; Sedentary behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Seasons
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sleep*
  • Weather