Background: Little is known about physical activity and mortality risk in the elderly. Therefore, we describe the associations between the physical activity pattern of elderly men and the mortality from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), particularly coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke, and all causes.
Methods: Self-reported physical activity was assessed with a validated questionnaire for retired men in a population-based sample of 802 Dutch men, aged 64 to 84 years at baseline. Relative risks were estimated for 10-year mortality from CVD (199 deaths), CHD (90), stroke (47), and all causes (373) for tertiles of time spent on physical activity (reference, lowest tertile). Adjustments were made for baseline age, relevant major chronic diseases, cigarette smoking, and alcohol consumption.
Results: Mortality risks from CVD and all causes decreased with increasing physical activity (P for trend = .04) with adjusted relative risks of 0.70 (95% confidence interval, 0.48-1.01) and 0.77 (95% confidence interval, 0.59-1.00) in the highest tertile of total physical activity, respectively. Except for CHD, time spent in more intense activities (> or = 4 kcal/kg per hour) was more strongly associated with all mortality outcomes than less intense activities, but no single type of activity was particularly protective. Walking or cycling at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes (our definition of activity based on general health recommendations) was associated with reduced mortality from CVD (adjusted relative risk, 0.69; 95% confidence interval, 0.50-0.88) and all causes (relative risk, 0.71; 95% confidence interval, 0.58-0.88). Additional adjustment for biological cardiovascular risk factors did not affect the strength of any association.
Conclusion: In a general population of elderly men, physical activity may protect against mortality from CVDs and all causes.