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Research Letters |

Invited Commentary—Physical Activity Benefits Various Aspects of Healthy Aging:  Comment on “Physical Activity at Midlife and Health-Related Quality of Life in Older Men” FREE

Qi Sun, MD, ScD; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD; Francine Grodstein, ScD
[+] Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Nutrition (Drs Sun and Hu) and Epidemiology (Drs Hu and Grodstein), Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; and Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston (Drs Hu and Grodstein).


Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(13):1172-1173. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.200.
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Published online

Physical activity is an effective approach to preventing chronic diseases.1 We and others have also found that physical activity in midlife is related to healthy aging.214 In this issue of the Archives, Savela and colleagues report a significant positive association between higher midlife physical activity and greater physical function in older men; activity was not associated with other components of health-related quality of life. A major strength of this study is its long follow-up and detailed measures of quality of life in older age. However, 2 limitations are notable. Assessment of physical activity was limited, with 3 broad categories; thus, measurement errors might have attenuated associations. Second, the sample was relatively small with 552 participants.

In our previous study,14 as Savela et al note, we did not consider individual quality of life components; our interest was in understanding overall successful survival—a clear public health priority. Nonetheless, for comparison, in our data, midlife physical activity was related to the SF-36 mental health index and to physical function (2 components in our definition of successful survival, along with chronic diseases and cognition). Adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for the fifth vs first quintile of physical activity were 0.43 (0.38-0.49) (P value for trend, <.001) for physical function and 0.80 (0.72-0.90) (P value for trend, <.001) for mental health. Overall, however, despite relatively low power, the study by Savela et al adds to the growing evidence that greater physical activity in midlife contributes to aspects of healthy aging.

ARTICLE INFORMATION

Correspondence: Dr Sun, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Room 349, Bldg 2, Boston, MA 02115 (qisun@hsph.harvard.edu).

Financial Disclosure: None reported.

Funding/Support: This study was supported by research grants AG13482, AG15424, and CA40356 from the National Institutes of Health and the Pilot and Feasibility program sponsored by the Boston Obesity Nutrition Research Center (DK46200). Dr Sun is supported by a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Unilever Corporate Research.

Department of Health and Human Services, Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.  Atlanta, GA National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion1996;
Almeida  OPNorman  PHankey  GJamrozik  KFlicker  L Successful mental health aging: results from a longitudinal study of older Australian men. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2006;14 (1) 27- 35
PubMed Link to Article
Fiatarone  MAO'Neill  EFRyan  ND  et al.  Exercise training and nutritional supplementation for physical frailty in very elderly people. N Engl J Med 1994;330 (25) 1769- 1775
PubMed Link to Article
He  XZBaker  DW Body mass index, physical activity, and the risk of decline in overall health and physical functioning in late middle age. Am J Public Health 2004;94 (9) 1567- 1573
PubMed Link to Article
Laurin  DVerreault  RLindsay  JMacPherson  KRockwood  K Physical activity and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly persons. Arch Neurol 2001;58 (3) 498- 504
PubMed Link to Article
Leveille  SGGuralnik  JMFerrucci  LLanglois  JA Aging successfully until death in old age: opportunities for increasing active life expectancy. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149 (7) 654- 664
PubMed Link to Article
Newman  ABArnold  AMNaydeck  BL  et al. Cardiovascular Health Study Research Group, “Successful aging”: effect of subclinical cardiovascular disease. Arch Intern Med 2003;163 (19) 2315- 2322
PubMed Link to Article
Strawbridge  WJDeleger  SRoberts  REKaplan  GA Physical activity reduces the risk of subsequent depression for older adults. Am J Epidemiol 2002;156 (4) 328- 334
PubMed Link to Article
Vaillant  GEMukamal  K Successful aging. Am J Psychiatry 2001;158 (6) 839- 847
PubMed Link to Article
Vita  AJTerry  RBHubert  HBFries  JF Aging, health risks, and cumulative disability. N Engl J Med 1998;338 (15) 1035- 1041
PubMed Link to Article
Willcox  BJHe  QChen  R  et al.  Midlife risk factors and healthy survival in men. JAMA 2006;296 (19) 2343- 2350
PubMed Link to Article
Yaffe  KBarnes  DNevitt  MLui  LYCovinsky  K A prospective study of physical activity and cognitive decline in elderly women: women who walk. Arch Intern Med 2001;161 (14) 1703- 1708
PubMed Link to Article
Yates  LBDjousse  LKurth  TBuring  JEGaziano  JM Exceptional longevity in men: modifiable factors associated with survival and function to age 90 years. Arch Intern Med 2008;168 (3) 284- 290
PubMed Link to Article
Sun  QTownsend  MKOkereke  OIFranco  OHHu  FBGrodstein  F Physical activity at midlife in relation to successful survival in women at age 70 years or older. Arch Intern Med 2010;170 (2) 194- 201
PubMed Link to Article

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Tables

References

Department of Health and Human Services, Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.  Atlanta, GA National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion1996;
Almeida  OPNorman  PHankey  GJamrozik  KFlicker  L Successful mental health aging: results from a longitudinal study of older Australian men. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2006;14 (1) 27- 35
PubMed Link to Article
Fiatarone  MAO'Neill  EFRyan  ND  et al.  Exercise training and nutritional supplementation for physical frailty in very elderly people. N Engl J Med 1994;330 (25) 1769- 1775
PubMed Link to Article
He  XZBaker  DW Body mass index, physical activity, and the risk of decline in overall health and physical functioning in late middle age. Am J Public Health 2004;94 (9) 1567- 1573
PubMed Link to Article
Laurin  DVerreault  RLindsay  JMacPherson  KRockwood  K Physical activity and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly persons. Arch Neurol 2001;58 (3) 498- 504
PubMed Link to Article
Leveille  SGGuralnik  JMFerrucci  LLanglois  JA Aging successfully until death in old age: opportunities for increasing active life expectancy. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149 (7) 654- 664
PubMed Link to Article
Newman  ABArnold  AMNaydeck  BL  et al. Cardiovascular Health Study Research Group, “Successful aging”: effect of subclinical cardiovascular disease. Arch Intern Med 2003;163 (19) 2315- 2322
PubMed Link to Article
Strawbridge  WJDeleger  SRoberts  REKaplan  GA Physical activity reduces the risk of subsequent depression for older adults. Am J Epidemiol 2002;156 (4) 328- 334
PubMed Link to Article
Vaillant  GEMukamal  K Successful aging. Am J Psychiatry 2001;158 (6) 839- 847
PubMed Link to Article
Vita  AJTerry  RBHubert  HBFries  JF Aging, health risks, and cumulative disability. N Engl J Med 1998;338 (15) 1035- 1041
PubMed Link to Article
Willcox  BJHe  QChen  R  et al.  Midlife risk factors and healthy survival in men. JAMA 2006;296 (19) 2343- 2350
PubMed Link to Article
Yaffe  KBarnes  DNevitt  MLui  LYCovinsky  K A prospective study of physical activity and cognitive decline in elderly women: women who walk. Arch Intern Med 2001;161 (14) 1703- 1708
PubMed Link to Article
Yates  LBDjousse  LKurth  TBuring  JEGaziano  JM Exceptional longevity in men: modifiable factors associated with survival and function to age 90 years. Arch Intern Med 2008;168 (3) 284- 290
PubMed Link to Article
Sun  QTownsend  MKOkereke  OIFranco  OHHu  FBGrodstein  F Physical activity at midlife in relation to successful survival in women at age 70 years or older. Arch Intern Med 2010;170 (2) 194- 201
PubMed Link to Article

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