Strenuous occupational physical activity increased mobility limitations in older adults

Strenuous occupational physical activity in midlife increases the risk of limited mobility in older adults, whereas leisure-time physical activity decreases the risk, according to study results published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers collected baseline data in 1981 from 5,200 public sector employees from the Finnish Longitudinal Study on Municipal Employees, including leisure time physical activity and occupational physical activity. The employees completed a questionnaire in 1985, 1992, 1997 and 2009, and researchers assessed the number of mobility limitations (ML) based on an individual’s ability to maintain and change body positions, carry and handle objects and walk and move.

According to study results, participants who participated in vigorous occupational physical activity in midlife had a greater risk of increase in ML in old age vs. participants who engaged in light occupational physical activity. Researchers also found participants had a lower risk of ML if they performed vigorous leisure time physical activity compared with inactive participants.

“In long follow-up studies of older people it is necessary to take into account that some of the participants may die before the study ends. Only the healthiest and strongest participants are available for the follow-up assessments, which may lead to the underestimation of the age-related changes,” TainaRantanen, PhD, of the Gerontology Research Center and department of health sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland, stated in a press release. “A person doing heavy manual work may compensate for its detrimental effects by participating in brisk leisure-time physical activity. Mobility limitation is an important determinant of a person’s possibilities to participate in the society and to utilize community amenities.”

For more information:

Hinrichs T. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;doi:10.1111/jgs.12793.

Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.

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