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Open Access Research article

Non-leisure time physical activity is an independent predictor of longevity for a Taiwanese elderly population: an eight-year follow-up study

Yu-Pei Lin1, Ying-Hsiang Huang2, Feng-Hwa Lu23, Jin-Shang Wu23, Chih-Jen Chang23 and Yi-Ching Yang23*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, Kaohsiung Municipal Min-Shen Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

2 Department of Family Medicine, National Cheng Kung University Hospital, Tainan, Taiwan

3 Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:428  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-428

Published: 3 June 2011

Abstract

Background

The aim of this study is to determine the relationship between leisure time physical activity (LTPA) and non-leisure time physical activity (NLTPA) on mortality among the elderly in Taiwan.

Methods

This is a prospective observational cohort study. We analyzed the mortality data from a cohort of 876 non-institutionalized community-dwelling men and women aged 65 years or over, who were recruited by stratified clustering random sampling from Tainan city and participated in the 1996 Elderly Medication Survey. Information about activities and other variables were collected by structured interviews at baseline in the participants' home. The Cox proportional hazards model and crude death rate were applied to estimate mortality risk.

Results

Among the 876 participants, 312 died during the follow-up period (1996-2004). In the unadjusted Cox regression model, subjects aged over 75, having difficulty in carrying out activities of daily living (ADLs), a BMI less than 18.5, a history of diabetes mellitus or stroke, without LTPA or being inactive in NLTPA, were found to have a higher risk of eight-year mortality. With the adjustment for age, gender, education level, habitual smoking and drinking, living status, BMI and medical history, the mortality was found to be higher among the sedentary subjects, either defined by lack of LTPA or NLTPA, with the hazard ratio of 1.27 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.97-1.66) and 1.45 (95% CI = 1.07-1.97), respectively. Furthermore, when both LTPA and NLTPA were put into the model simultaneously, NLTPA (HR = 1.40; 95% CI = 1.03-1.91) but not LTPA (HR = 1.21, 95% CI = 0.92-1.59) significantly predicted mortality during eight-year follow-up. In addition, subjects who were actively engaged in NLTPA had a lower mortality risk especially in subjects without performing LTPA.

Conclusions

NLTPA is an independent predictor of longevity among older people in Taiwan. A physically active lifestyle, especially engaged in NLTPA, is associated with lower mortality risk in the elderly population. We thus suggest that encouraging older people to keep on engaging in customary NLTPA is good for their health.