Midlife physical activity, healthy behaviors vital for active later life

In a study of close to 4,000 older adults (age range, 60-83; 25%, women). with accelerometer data, barriers associated with decreased physical activity and increased sedentary behavior in later life were already evident in midlife. This suggests that implementation in midlife of policies that integrate physical activity and other healthy behaviors may be an effective approach to promote an active lifestyle in older age, the authors said. The findings are especially important for independent living and for active-aging staff in midlife.

For the study, the researchers analyzed accelerometer data and other factors among participants from 2012 to 2013. Participants who had factors assessed in 1991-1993 were followed for an average of 20 years, and those first assessed in 2002-2004 had a mean follow-up of 9 years.

Factors assessed included: sociodemographic (i.e., age, sex, race and ethnicity, occupational position, and marital status); behavioral (i.e., smoking, alcohol intake, and fruit and vegetable intake); and health-related factors (i.e., body mass index, 36-Item Short Form Health Survey physical and mental component summary scores, and the number of chronic conditions).

High alcohol intake was defined as more than 14 units of alcohol per week, and high fruit and vegetable intake was defined as twice daily or more.

Overall, factors associated with decreased physical activity and increased sedentary behavior were older age, living alone, overweight, obesity, chronic conditions, and poor physical functioning. In older age, there was also evidence of clustering of behavioral factors, given that no current smoking, eating more fruits and vegetables, and drinking more alcohol were associated with decreased sedentary time and more physical activity. Since these barriers were already evident in midlife, the authors suggest implementing targeted interventions than to promote physical activity and reduce sedentary time.

SOURCE: JAMA Network Open (April 7, 2023); Chen M, et al. JAMA Network Open. 2022;5(4):e226379. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.6379
KEYWORDS: Active aging, Active lifestyle, Physical activity, Midlife, Obesity, Chronic conditions