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J Sport Health Sci. 2016 Dec;5(4):437-442. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2015.09.008. Epub 2015 Sep 25.

Physical activity, fitness, and all-cause mortality: An 18-year follow-up among old people.

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Unit of Health Care, Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Kuopio 70111, Finland.
Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä 40014, Finland.



Little is known about change in physical activity (PA) and its relationship to all-cause mortality among old people. There is even less information about the association between PA, fitness, and all-cause mortality among people aged 80 years and above. The objective is to investigate persistence and change in PA over 5 years as a predictor of all-cause mortality, and fitness as a mediator of this association, among people aged 80 and 85 years at the beginning of an 18-year mortality follow-up period.


Using Evergreen Project data (started in 1989), 4 study groups were formed according to self-reported changes in PA level, over a 5-year period (starting in 1989-1990 and ending in 1994-1995): remained active (RA, control group), changed to inactive (CI), remained inactive (RI), and changed to active (CA). Mortality was followed up over the 18-year period (1994-2012). Cox models with different covariates such as age, sex, use of alcohol, smoking, chronic diseases, and a 10 m walking test were used to analyze the association between change in PA level and mortality.


Compared to RA, those who decreased their PA level (CI) between baseline and follow-up had higher all-cause mortality (hazard ratio (HR = 2.09; 95%CI: 1.63-2.69) when adjusted for age, gender, and chronic diseases. RI showed the highest all-cause mortality (HR = 2.16; 95%CI: 1.59-2.93). In CA, when compared against RA, the risk of all-cause mortality was not statistically significant (HR = 1.51; 95%CI: 0.95-2.38). In comparison with RA, when walking speed over 10 m was added as a covariate, all-cause mortality risk was almost statistically significant only in CI (HR = 1.37; 95%CI: 1.00-1.87).


Persistence and change in PA level was associated with mortality. This association was largely explained by fitness status. Randomized controlled studies are needed to test whether maintaining or increasing PA level could lengthen the life of old people.


All-cause mortality; Fitness; Follow-up study; Functional ability; Old people; Physical activity

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