Demographic and psychosocial correlates of physical activity in late life

Mark S. Kaplan, Jason T. Newsom, Bentson H. McFarland, Leining Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Scopus citations


Introduction: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, increasing physical activity may help prolong health and preserve the quality of life in late adulthood. Physical activity has taken center stage as the behavior most likely to alter health. However, there is little recent population-wide information about the demographic and psychosocial correlates of physical activity in the elderly population. The purpose of the study was to identify the factors associated with older adults' frequency of physical activity. The study may have implications for preventive interventions. Methods: Data for 12,611 community-dwelling people aged ≥65 from the 1996-1997 Canadian National Population Health Survey were examined. Predictors of frequent versus infrequent self-reported physical activity lasting >15 minutes were examined using logistic regression analyses. The predictor variables included geographic location, psychological distress (Generalized Distress Scale), demographic factors (age, gender, educational level, and marital status), perceived social support, chronic medical conditions, physical limitations due to injury, functional limitations, smoking behavior, and body mass index (BMI). Results: Gender (male); younger age; higher levels of education; being unmarried; absence of chronic conditions, injuries, and functional limitations; lower BMI; social support (females); nonsmoking; region; and lower levels of psychological distress were associated with frequent physical activity in late life. Older adults in western Canadian provinces were more active than those in eastern provinces. Conclusions: The results will be useful for the design of interventions aimed at improving older adults' health behavior and other health and functional outcomes, especially for subgroups in particular need. Recommendations for further longitudinal research are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-312
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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