Background: We studied the relations between physical activity and changes in physical activity, all-cause mortality, and incidence of major coronary-heart-disease events in older men.
Methods: In 1978-80 (Q1), 7735 men aged 40-59 were selected from general practices in 24 British towns, and enrolled in a prospective study of cardiovascular disease, which included physical activity data. In 1992 (Q92), 12-14 years later, 5934 of the men (91% of available survivors, mean age 63 years) gave further information on physical activity and were then followed up for a further 4 years. The main endpoints were all-cause mortality during 4 years of follow-up from Q92, and major fatal and non-fatal coronary-heart-disease events during 3 years of follow-up from Q92.
Findings: Among 4311 men with no history of coronary heart disease, stroke, or "other heart trouble" by Q92 and who did not report "poor health", there were 219 deaths. In the inactive/occasionally active, light, moderate, and moderately vigorous/vigorous activity groups there were 101 (18.5/1000 person-years) 48 (11.4), 23 (7.3), and 47 (9.1) deaths, respectively (adjusted risk ratios 1.00, 0.61 [95% CI 0.48-0.86], 0.50 [0.31-0.79], 0.65 [0.45-0.94]). Men who were sedentary at Q1 and who began at least light activity by Q92 had significantly lower all-cause mortality than those who remained sedentary, even after adjustment for potential confounders (risk ratio=0.55 [0.36-0.84]). Physical activity improved both cardiovascular mortality (0.66 [0.35-1.23]) and non-cardiovascular mortality (0.48 [0.27-0.85]). The relation between physical activity at Q92, changes in physical activity, and mortality were similar for men with pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
Interpretation: Maintaining or taking up light or moderate physical activity reduces mortality and heart attacks in older men with and without diagnosed cardiovascular disease. Our results support public-health recommendations for older sedentary people to increase physical activity, and for active middle-aged people to continue their activity into old age.