Changes in physical activity levels and relationship to balance performance, gait speed, and self-rated health in older Swedish women: a longitudinal study

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2022 Apr;34(4):775-783. doi: 10.1007/s40520-021-02016-5. Epub 2021 Nov 16.


Background and aim: Physical activity levels in older people often decrease and may mean impaired physical functioning leading to an increased fall risk. The aim of this study was to investigate self-reported change in physical activity dose and deterioration in balance performance, gait speed, and self-rated health (SRH) in older women between two time points in a follow-up study.

Methods: A cohort of community-living women, aged 69-79 years (n = 351) were evaluated by questionnaire and clinical tests on balance, gait speed, and SRH at baseline. One hundred and eighty-six women were followed-up by these tests 8.5 years after inclusion. The non-parametric Wilcoxon signed-rank test and Mann-Whitney U test were used for the analysis.

Results: The greatest changes were seen in one-leg standing time (OLST) with eyes closed (- 60%) and eyes open (- 42%). The population was divided into high exercise (HE, n = 49) and low exercise (LE, n = 51) groups. At baseline the HE group had an OLST of 19 s with eyes open and 3 s with eyes closed. In the LE group, these values were 7.3 s and 2 s. At follow-up, differences between HE and LE concerning tandem walk forwards (steps) (HE = 8.5; LE = 2.5) and backwards (HE = 11; LE = 3.5) emerged. The HE group estimated SRH (VAS-scale) 30 mm higher at baseline and 17 mm higher at follow-up than the LE group.

Conclusion: Greater physical activity seems to be an important predictor for maintaining physical function and SRH in older women.

Keywords: Balance; Elderly; Falls; Longitudinal design; Postural physical exercise; Self-evaluation; Subjective-health; Women.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Postural Balance*
  • Sweden
  • Walking Speed*