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).
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.2- 14 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.
Correspondence: Dr Sun, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Room 349, Bldg 2, Boston, MA 02115 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
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