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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physical activity in older people: a systematic review

Fei Sun1, Ian J Norman2 and Alison E While2*

Author Affiliations

1 Second Military Medical University, School of Nursing, 800 Xiangyin Road, Shanghai, 200433, PR China

2 King’s College London, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery, 57 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8WA, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:449  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-449

Published: 6 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Physical activity (PA) in older people is critically important in the prevention of disease, maintenance of independence and improvement of quality of life. Little is known about the physical activity of the older adults or their compliance with current physical activity guidelines.

Methods

A systematic literature search of the published literature was conducted. Included were published reports of original research that independently reported: the PA level of non-institutional older adults (aged 60 years and over); and the proportion of older adults in the different samples who met PA recommendations or guidelines. The review was restricted to studies published since 2000 to provide a current picture of older adults’ PA levels.

Results

Fifty three papers were included in the review. The percentage of older adults meeting recommended physical activity ranged from 2.4 – 83.0% across the studies. Definitions of “recommended” physical activity in older adults varied across the studies as did approaches to measurement which posed methodological challenges to data analysis. Older age groups were less likely than the reference group to be regularly active, and women were less likely than men to achieve regular physical activity, especially leisure time physical activity, when measured by both subjective and objective criteria.

Conclusion

The review highlights the need for studies which recruit representative random samples of community based older people and employ validated measurement methods consistently to enable comparison of PA levels over time and between countries.

Keywords:
Physical activity; Exercise; Older people; Older adults