Leisure-time physical activity among older adults. United States, 1990

Arch Intern Med. 1996 Jun 24;156(12):1321-6.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States