Objective: To investigate the prevalence and selected correlates of leisure-time physical activity in a nationally representative sample of persons aged 65 years or older.
Methods: Data from 2783 older male and 5018 older female respondents to the 1990 National Health Interview Survey were used. Regular physical activity was defined as participation in leisure-time physical activities 3 times or more per week for 30 minutes or more during the previous 2 weeks. Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated from multivariate logistic regression analysis.
Results: Prevalence of regular physical activity was 37% among older men and 24% among older women. Correlates of regular physical activity included the perception of excellent to good health (men: OR, 1.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-1.9; women: OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.3-1.9), correct exercise knowledge (men: OR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.9-3.1; women: OR, 2.7; 95% CI, 2.2-3.4), no activity limitations (men: OR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.0-1.6; women: OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.4-2.0) and not perceiving "a lot" of stress during the previous 2 weeks (men: OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2-2.4; women: OR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.0-1.6). Among those who had been told at least twice that they had high blood pressure, physician's advice to exercise was associated with regular physical activity (men: OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2-2.3; women: OR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.2-1.9). The 2 major activities among active older adults were walking (men, 69%; women, 75%) and gardening (men, 45%; women, 35%).
Conclusions: Prevalence of regular physical activity is low among older Americans. Identifying the correlates of physical activity will help to formulate strategies to increase physical activity in this age group.