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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Associations between fruit and vegetable intake, leisure-time physical activity, sitting time and self-rated health among older adults: cross-sectional data from the WELL study

Marita Södergren12*, Sarah A McNaughton1, Jo Salmon1, Kylie Ball1 and David A Crawford1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood, VIC, 3125, Australia

2 Center for Family and Community Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:551  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-551

Published: 25 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Lifestyle behaviours, such as healthy diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour, are key elements of healthy ageing and important modifiable risk factors in the prevention of chronic diseases. Little is known about the relationship between these behaviours in older adults. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake, leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) and sitting time (ST), and their association with self-rated health in older adults.

Methods

This cross-sectional study comprised 3,644 older adults (48% men) aged 55–65 years, who participated in the Wellbeing, Eating and Exercise for a Long Life (“WELL”) study. Respondents completed a postal survey about their health and their eating and physical activity behaviours in 2010 (38% response rate). Spearman’s coefficient (rho) was used to evaluate the relationship between F&V intake, LTPA and ST. Their individual and shared associations with self-rated health were examined using ordinal logistic regression models, stratified by sex and adjusted for confounders (BMI, smoking, long-term illness and socio-demographic characteristics).

Results

The correlations between F&V intake, LTPA and ST were low. F&V intake and LTPA were positively associated with self-rated health. Each additional serving of F&V or MET-hour of LTPA were associated with approximately 10% higher likelihood of reporting health as good or better among women and men. The association between ST and self-rated health was not significant in the multivariate analysis. A significant interaction was found (ST*F&V intake). The effect of F&V intake on self-rated health increased with increasing ST in women, whereas the effect decreased with increasing ST in men.

Conclusions

This study contributes to the scarce literature related to lifestyle behaviours and their association with health indicators among older adults. The findings suggest that a modest increase in F&V intake, or LTPA could have a marked effect on the health of older adults. Further research is needed to fully understand the correlates and determinants of lifestyle behaviours, particularly sitting time, in this age group.

Keywords:
Lifestyle; Behaviours; IPAQ; Ordinal logistic regression; Interactions