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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Levels of physical activity among a nationally representative sample of people in early old age: results of objective and self-reported assessments

Rajna Golubic1*, Kathryn R Martin234, Ulf Ekelund15, Rebecca Hardy2, Diana Kuh2, Nicholas Wareham1, Rachel Cooper2, Soren Brage1 and On behalf of the NSHD scientific and data collection teams

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Institute of Metabolic Science, Box 285, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, United Kingdom

2 Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, 33 Bedford Place, London, WC1B 5JU, United Kingdom

3 Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, National Institute on Aging, Gateway Building, Suite 3C-309, 7201 Wisconsin Avenue, MSC 9205, Bethesda, MD 20892-9205, USA

4 Institute of Applied Health Sciences, School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Aberdeen, Polwarth Building, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, United Kingdom

5 Department of Sport Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, PO 4014 Ullevål Stadion, 0806 Oslo, Norway

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:58  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-58

Published: 3 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Detailed assessment of physical activity (PA) in older adults is required to comprehensively describe habitual PA-levels in this growing population segment. Current evidence of population PA-levels is predominantly based on self-report.

Methods

We examined PA and sedentary behaviour in a nationally representative sample of British people aged 60–64, using individually-calibrated combined heart-rate and movement sensing and a validated questionnaire (EPAQ2), and the socio-demographic and behavioural factors that may explain between-individual variation in PA.

Results

Between 2006–2010, 2224 participants completed EPAQ2 capturing the past year’s activity in four domains (leisure, work, transportation and domestic life) and 1787 participants provided 2–5 days of combined-sensing data. According to objective estimates, median(IQR) physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) was 33.5 (25.3-42.2) and 35.5 (26.6- 47.3) kJ/kg/day for women and men, respectively. Median (IQR) time spent in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA; >3MET), light-intensity PA (1.5-3 MET) and sedentary (<1.5 MET) was 26.0 (12.3-48.1) min/day, 5.4 (4.2-6.7) h/day and 18.0 (16.6-19.4) h/day, respectively, in women; and 41.0 (18.8-73.0) min/day, 5.2 (4.0-6.5) h/day and 17.9 (16.3-19.4) h/day in men. PAEE and time spent in MVPA were lower and sedentary time was greater in obese individuals, those with poor health, and those with lower educational attainment (women only). Questionnaire-derived PAEE and MVPA tended to have similar patterns of variation across socio-demographic strata. In the whole sample, domestic PA had the greatest relative contribution to total questionnaire-derived PAEE (58%), whereas occupational PA was the main driver among employed participants (54%). Only 2.2% of participants achieved an average of >30 min MVPA per day combined with >60 min strength-training per week.

Conclusions

The use of both self-report and objective monitoring to assess PA in early old age provides important information on the domains of PA, PAEE and time spent at different intensity levels. Our findings suggest that PA levels are generally low and observed patterns of variation indicate specific subgroups who might benefit from targeted interventions to increase PA.

Keywords:
Physical activity; Sedentary behaviour; Physical activity questionnaire; Combined sensing; Birth cohort; Old age