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Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Sep 15;168(6):577-86; discussion 587-91. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn163. Epub 2008 Jun 25.

Frequency of leisure-time physical activity and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in the US population: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

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  • 1School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


The decline in vitamin D status among older people is probably due to decreased synthesis of vitamin D by sun-exposed skin and/or decreased outdoor activity. The authors examined the association between outdoor leisure physical activity and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994) (n = 15,148 aged >/=20 years). The mean 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration declined with increasing age, with 79, 73, and 68 nmol/liter for persons aged 20-39, 40-59, and 60 or more years. The proportion that engaged in outdoor activity in the past month was 80% for persons aged 20-39 and 40-59 years but 71% for those aged 60 or more years. In contrast, the mean difference in 25-hydroxyvitamin D between those who participated in outdoor activities daily compared with those who did not participate in the past month was similar for the youngest and oldest age groups: 13 and 16 nmol/liter, respectively. Those persons aged 60 or more years who participated in daily outdoor activities had a mean 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration similar to that of persons aged 20-39 years: 77 versus 79 nmol/liter, respectively. These nationally representative data suggest that persons aged 60 or more years can synthesize enough vitamin D from daily outdoor activities to maintain vitamin D levels similar to those of young adults.

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