Background: Physical activity is crucial to maintain older adults' health and functioning, but the health benefits of particular activity intensities remain unclear. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to peruse the distribution of physical activity, and to investigate the associations of particular physical activity intensities with body composition and physical function among older adults.
Methods: The sample comprised of 293 community-dwelling sedentary or at most moderately active older adults (42% men, mean age 74 ± 4 years). Physical activity was measured with a hip-worn tri-axial accelerometer over seven consecutive days, and investigated in detailed intensity range and in categories of sedentary, light and moderate-to-vigorous activity. Fat percent and appendicular lean mass were measured with DXA. Physical function was assessed by six-minutes walking test (6-min walk), maximal walking speed over 10 m (10-m walk) and Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). Associations were estimated with partial correlation adjusted for sex and age.
Results: Participants spent on average 602 min per day sedentary, 210 min in light activity and 32 min in moderate-to-vigorous activity. Light and moderate-to-vigorous activity were negatively associated with fat percent (r = - 0.360 and r = - 0.384, respectively, p < 0.001 for both), and positively with SPPB, 10-m walk and 6-min walk results (r = 0.145-0.279, p < 0.01, for light and r = 0.220-0.465, p < 0.001, for moderate-to-vigorous activity). In detailed investigation of the intensity range, associations of physical activity with fat percent, 6-min walk and 10-m walk were statistically significant from very light intensity activity onward, whereas significant associations between physical activity and SPPB were observed mostly at higher end of the intensity range. Sedentary time was positively associated with fat percent (r = 0.251, p < 0.001) and negatively with 6-min walk (r = - 0.170, p < 0.01).
Conclusion: Perusing the physical activity intensity range revealed that, among community-dwelling sedentary or at most moderately active older adults, physical activity of any intensity was positively associated with lower fat percent and higher walking speed over long and short distances. These findings provide additional evidence of the importance of encouraging older adults to engage in physical activity of any intensity. More intervention studies are required to confirm the health benefits of light-intensity activity.
Keywords: Accelerometer; Community-dwelling; Fat percent; Physical performance; Walking speed.
© The Author(s) 2020.
Conflict of interest statement
Competing interestsDr. Fielding reports grants from National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Aging) and the USDA, during the conduct of the study; grants, personal fees and other from Axcella Health, other from Inside Tracker, grants and personal fees from Biophytis, grants and personal fees from Astellas, personal fees from Cytokinetics, personal fees from Amazentis, grants and personal fees from Nestle’, personal fees from Glaxo Smith Kline, outside the submitted work. For the remaining authors no conflicts of interest were declared.
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