A Lifetime of Physical Activity Yields Measurable Benefits As We Age

According to new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine


San Diego, CA, August 24, 2011
 – The benefits of physical activity accumulate across a lifetime, according to a new study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers in England and Australia examined the associations of leisure time physical activity across adulthood with physical performance and strength in midlife in a group of British men and women followed since birth in March 1946.

“Maintaining physical performance and muscle strength with age is important given that lower levels in older populations are associated with increased risk of subsequent health problems, loss of independence, and shorter survival times,” commented lead investigator Rachel Cooper, PhD, Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing. “As the global population ages, there is a growing need to identify modifiable factors across life that influence physical performance and strength in later life. We found that there are cumulative benefits of physical activity across adulthood on physical performance in mid-life. Increased activity should be promoted early in adulthood to ensure the maintenance of physical performance in later life. Promotion of leisure time activity is likely to become increasingly important in younger populations as people’s daily routines become more sedentary."

The study, conducted by investigators from the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health, London, United Kingdom, and the School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Australia, used data from about 2400 men and women from the UK Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development. They analyzed self-reported leisure time physical activity (LTPA) levels at 36, 43 and 53 years of age. During the 53-year investigation, grip strength, standing balance, and chair rise times were measured as indicators of strength and physical performance.

Grip strength is a measure of upper-body muscle condition. Chair-rise times are associated with lower body strength and power, as well as cardiorespiratory fitness. Standing balance requires mental concentration and subtle motor control and measures a number of neurophysiological and sensory systems.

Participants who were more active at all three ages showed better performance on the chair-rise test. Persons more active at ages 43 and 53 had better performance on the standing balance test, even after adjusting for covariates. However, physical activity and grip strength were not associated in women and, in men, only physical activity at age 53 was associated with grip strength.

Dr. Cooper added that the findings in relation to chair rising and standing balance performance suggest that promotion of leisure time physical activity across adulthood would have beneficial effects on physical performance later in life and hence the functional health and quality of life of the aging population, especially as the size of the differences in performance detected may be clinically relevant. 

The article is “Physical Activity Across Adulthood and Physical Performance in Midlife: Findings from a British Birth Cohort” by Rachel Cooper, PhD, Gita D. Mishra, PhD, and Diana Kuh, PhD. (doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.06.035). It appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 41, Issue 4 (October 2011) published by Elsevier.
 

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Notes to editors
Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Beverly Lytton at eAJPM@ucsd.edu. Journalists wishing to interview the author may contact the UK Medical Research Council press office at press.office@headoffice.mrc.ac.ukor +44 207 395 2345.

About the authors
Rachel Cooper, PhD
MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, Division of Population Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom

Gita D. Mishra, PhD
MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, Division of Population Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom
School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston, Australia

Diana Kuh, PhD
MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, Division of Population Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom

About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine 
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine ( www.ajpm-online.net) is the official journal of  The American College of Preventive Medicine ( www.acpm.org) and the  Association for Prevention Teaching and Research ( www.atpm.org). It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, with an Impact Factor of 4.235, is ranked 11th out of 122 Public, Environmental & Occupational Health titles and 16th out of 132 General and Internal Medicine titles according to the 2010 Journal Citation Reports©published by Thomson Reuters.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence, and ClinicalKey — and publishes nearly 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

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Media contact
Beverly Lytton
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
+ 1 858 534 9340
eAJPM@ucsd.edu