Open Access Open Badges Research article

Health-related factors correlate with behavior trends in physical activity level in old age: longitudinal results from a population in São Paulo, Brazil

Marcela T Ferreira1*, Sandra MM Matsudo2, Manoel CSA Ribeiro3 and Luiz R Ramos4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine and Therapeutic, São Paulo Federal University, São Paulo, Brazil

2 Physical Fitness Research Laboratory from São Caetano do Sul, São Caetano do Sul, Brazil

3 Departament of Social Medicine, Santa Casa da Misericórdia, São Paulo, Brazil

4 Department of Preventive Medicine, São Paulo Federal University, São Paulo, Brazil

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:690  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-690

Published: 10 November 2010



Physical inactivity in leisure time is common among elderly in Brazil and this finding is particularly alarming considering that this population is greatly affected by chronic diseases. The identification of health factors that influence physical activity level (PAL) will help in the development of strategies for increasing PAL older adults. The current research aimed to identify variables that independently affect behavior trends in PAL over the course of two years among elderly.


A survey entitled the Epidoso Project ("Epidemiology of aging") studied 1,667 community-based older individuals in São Paulo city, Brazil over the course of two years. Physical activity level was determined through questions about frequency and duration of physical activities. Body Mass Index was calculated; functional capacity was assessed through the ADL (activities of daily living) scale; cognition was assessed by Mini-Mental State Examination; and mental health was assessed through the Dysthymia Screening. Experiences of falls and fractures were also assessed. Subjects were divided into three groups according to their self-report of Physical Activity Level: a - Regularly Active; b - Insufficiently Active and c - Physically Inactive. Behavior trends in PAL were also measured after two years. Multivariate regression model methodology was used to test associations longitudinally.


Results from the final model demonstrated that the risk of a not favorable behavior trend in PAL, which included the group who remained physically inactive and the group that displayed decreased PAL, in this cohort of older adults was significantly increased if the individual was female (OR = 2.50; 95% CI = 1.60-3.89; P < 0.01), older (80 y vs. 65 y, OR = 6.29, 95% CI = 2.69-14.67; P < 0.01), dependent on help from others for activities in the ADL scale (moderate-severe = 4-7+ vs. 0 ADLs) (OR = 2.25, 95% CI = 1.20-4.21; P < 0.011) or had experienced a history of falls with consequences (OR = 6.88, 95% CI = 0.91-52.01; P < 0.062).


Age, gender, ADL scores and falls were associated with a not favorable behavior trend in PAL. Promotion programs should target these factors, reducing barriers to achieve desired changes in PAL.