Patterns and correlates of physical activity behaviour over 10 years in older adults: prospective analyses from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Objective: Few studies have examined how levels of activity intensity fluctuate throughout later life in older adults and no study has identified correlates of sustained activity levels in this age group. The aim of the present analysis was to investigate stability of activity over a 10-year period and identify potential correlates of sustained activity levels in older adults. Design: Analyses of data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Participant-reported physical activity data were collected in 2002 (baseline), 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Participant age, sex, smoking, depressive symptoms, work status, wealth, and long-standing illness were recorded at baseline. Multiple logistic regression was used to examine associations between baseline exposure variables and persistent physical activity (reporting moderate and/or vigorous physical activity at least once a week at all 6 assessments over the 10-year time period). Results: A total of 5022 participants (mean age 61 years; 2114 male) were included in the analyses. There was reasonable stability in the physical activity measure over the 6 time points (Cronbach’s α 0.85). There was an overall trend for increasing levels of inactivity and a reduction in vigorous activity. Age, female sex, having ever smoked, long-standing illness, arthritis, obesity, and depressive symptoms were associated with a lower likelihood of being persistently active (defined as reporting moderate and/or vigorous physical activity at least once a week over all 6 assessment points). Those with greater wealth were 4 times more likely to be persistently active. Conclusions: In the present analyses time spent in vigorous-intensity activity declined in later life. A range of sociodemographic and biomedical factors were associated with being persistently active in older adults.