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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Apr;58(4):707-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.02792.x.

Unmet physical activity need in old age.

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  • 1Department of Health Sciences, Finnish Centre for Interdisciplinary Gerontology, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland.



To examine which individual and environmental factors correlate with unmet physical activity need in old age and predict development of unmet physical activity need (the feeling that one's level of physical activity is inadequate and thus distinct from the recommended amount of physical activity) over a 2-year follow-up.


Observational prospective cohort study and cross-sectional analyses.


Community and research center.


A total of 643 community-living ambulatory people aged 75 to 81 took part in face-to-face interviews and examinations at baseline and 314 at the 2-year follow-up.


Unmet physical activity need and its potential individual and environmental correlates were assessed at baseline. Development of unmet physical activity need was assessed over the 2-year follow-up period.


At baseline, all participants were able to walk at least 500 m outdoors, but 14% perceived unmet physical activity need. Unmet physical activity need was more prevalent in those with musculoskeletal diseases, depressive symptoms, and mobility limitations. Hills in the nearby environment, lack of resting places, and dangerous crossroads correlated with unmet physical activity need at baseline; the association was especially strong in those with walking difficulties. Significant baseline predictors for incident unmet physical activity need (15%) included fear of moving outdoors, hills in the nearby environment, and noisy traffic.


Unmet physical activity need is common in ambulatory community-living older people who have health and mobility problems and report negative environmental features in their neighborhood. Solutions to overcome barriers to physical activity need to be developed to promote equal opportunities for physical activity participation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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