Journal of Public Health

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 11–21 | Cite as

Age and exercise: a theoretical and empirical analysis of the effect of age and generation on physical activity

Original Article

Abstract

Aim

The well-documented association of reductions in physical activity with age is based largely on cross-sectional studies that do not distinguish between prevalence of physical activity and initiation/discontinuation patterns. These studies also fail to consider the changes in physical activity as a function of life stage. We investigated how physical activity evolves over a lifetime. We distinguished between prevalence and initiation/discontinuation patterns and also considered multidirectional age effects.

Subject and methods

The analyses are based on the annual German Socio-Economic Panel survey, which originally involved 6,000 households (>12,000 individuals) from age 16. Our study included 3,487 subjects (West Germany), i.e., 33% of the individuals first interviewed in 1984. A survival analysis model was constructed to assess the simultaneous effect of age and generation, while adjusting for potential confounders.

Results

The results show that the ubiquitous differences in physical activity between age groups are mainly attributable to cohort differences, not age effects. The likelihood of initiating at least weekly physical activity declines with age, as does the likelihood of discontinuing an established exercise habit. Both trends are more readily explained by changes in occupational and family biography than by health and fitness.

Conclusion

The ubiquitous differences in physical activity between age groups are largely due to intergenerational differences.

Keywords

Physical activity Health Elderly Public health 

References

  1. Abele A, Brehm W (1990) Wer ist der „typische“ Fitneß-Sportler? Sportwissenschaft 2:4–32Google Scholar
  2. Barker DJP (1998) Mothers, babies and health in later life. Churchill Livingstone, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  3. Bässler R (1990) Sportaktivität und Sportabstinenz. Spectrum Sportwiss 2:78–103Google Scholar
  4. Beck N (2009) Ereignisanalyse. In: Kühl S, Strodtholz P, Taffertshofer A (eds) Handbuch Methoden der Sozialforschung. Quantitative und Qualitative Methoden. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden, pp 714–741Google Scholar
  5. Becker S, Schneider S (2005) Analysen zur Sportbeteiligung auf der Basis des repräsentativen Bundes-Gesundheitssurveys 1998. Sport Ges 2:173–204Google Scholar
  6. Bengtsson T, Lindstrom M (2000) Childhood misery and disease in later life: the effects on mortality in old age of hazards experienced in early life, southern Sweden, 1760–1894. Popul Stud (Camb) 54:263–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bijnen FC, Feskens EJF, Caspersen CJ, Mosterd WL et al (1998) Age, period, and cohort effects on physical activity among elderly men during 10 years of follow-up: the Zutphen Elderly Study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 53:M235–M241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boardley D, Fahlman M, Topp R, Morgan AL et al (2007) The impact of exercise training on blood lipids in older adults. Am J Geriatr Cardiol 16:30–35PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blech J (2006) Fit wie in der Steinzeit. Der Spiegel 5/2006:134–145Google Scholar
  10. Blossfeld HP, Rowher G (1995). Techniques of event history modeling. New approaches to causal analysis. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  11. Boutelle KN, Murray DM, Jefferey RW, Hennrikus DJ, Lando HA (2000) Associations between exercise and health behaviors in a community sample of working adults. Prev Med 30:217–224PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brach JS, Simonsick EM, Kritchevsky S, Yaffe K et al (2004) The association between physical function and lifestyle activity and exercise in the health, aging and body composition study. J Am Geriatr Soc 52:502–509PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brändle M, Amann FW, Salomon F (1999) Diabetes mellitus Typ 2 und koronare Herzkrankheit. Schweiz Med Wochenschr 129:700–706PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Breuer C (2005) Cohort effects in physical inactivity. A neglected category and its health economical implications. J Public Health 13:189–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bröckling U (2008) Vorbeugen ist besser? Zur Soziologie der Prävention. Behemoth. A Journal on Civilisation 1:38–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Byberg L, Zethelius B, McKeigue PM, Lithell HO (2001) Changes in physical activity are associated with changes in metabolic cardiovascular risk factors. Diabetologia 44:2134–2139PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Byberg L, Melhus H, Gedeborg R, Sundström J, Ahllbom A, Zethelius B, Berglund LG, Wolk A, Michaëlsson K (2009) Total mortality after changes in leisure time physical activity in 50 year old men: 35 year follow-up of population based cohort. Br J Sports Med 43:482–490PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Conrad P (1994) Wellness as virtue: mortality and the pursuit of health. Cult Med Psychiatry 18:385–401PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Costa DL (2000) Understanding the twentieth-century decline in chronic conditions among older men. Demography 37:53–72PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Crespo CJ, Ainsworth BE, Keteyian SJ, Heath GW, Smit E (1999) Prevalence of physical inactivity and its relation to social class in U.S. adults: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. Med Sci Sports Exerc 31:1821–1827PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dai S, Marti B, Rickenbach M, Gutzwiller F (1990) Sport korreliert mit günstigen Lebensgewohnheiten - Ergebnisse der Bevölkerungsstudie des Schweizer MONICA-Projekts. Schweiz Z Sportmed 38:71–77PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Diekmann A, Mitter P (1984) Methoden zur Analyse von Zeitverläufen. Anwendung stochastischer Prozesse bei der Analyse von Ereignisdaten. Teubner, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  23. Dinkel RH (1999) Demographische Entwicklung und Gesundheitszustand. Eine empirische Kalkulation der Healthy Life Expectancy für die Bundesrepublik auf der Basis von Kohortensterbetafeln. In: Häfner H (ed) Gesundheit - unser höchstes Gut? Springer, Berlin, pp 61–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Droomers M, Schrijvers CTM, Van De Mheen H, Mackenbach JP (1998) Educational differences in leisure-time Pphysical inactivity: a descriptive and explanatory study. Soc Sci Med 47:1665–1676PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Erlinghagen M (2003) Wer treibt Sport im geteilten und vereinten Deutschland? Eine quantitative Analyse sozio-ökonomischer Determinanten des Breitensports. Graue Reihe des Instituts Arbeit und Technik. IAT, GelsenkirchenGoogle Scholar
  26. Gavrilova NS, Gavrilov LA, Evdokushkina GN, Semyonova VG (2003) Early-life predictors of human longevity: Aanalysis of the XIXth century birth cohorts. Ann Demogr Hist 106:177–198Google Scholar
  27. Gregg EW (1996) Self-rated health and the spectrum of physical activity and physical function in older women. J Aging Phys Act 4:349–361Google Scholar
  28. Haisken-DeNew JP, Frick JR (eds) (2000) DTC. Desktop Companion to the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSOEP), vol 3. Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  29. Haisken-DeNew JP, Frick JR (eds) (2005) DTC. Desktop Companion to the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSOEP), vol 3. Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  30. Heigl A (2004) Älter gleich kränker? BIB 111:41–49Google Scholar
  31. Hirvensalo M, Lampinen P, Rantanen T (1998) Physical exercise in old age: an eight-year follow-up study on involvement, motives, and obstacles among persons age 65–84. J Aging Phys Act 6:168Google Scholar
  32. Hollmann W, Hettinger T (2000) Sportmedizin: Grundlagen für Arbeit, Training und Präventivmedizin. Schattauer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  33. Hubert H, Bloch D, Oehlert J, Fries J (2002) Lifestyle habits and compression of morbidity. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 57:M347–M351PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roberts RE, Deleger S, Strawbridge WJ, Kaplan GA (2003) Prospective association between obesity and depression: evidence from the Alameda County Study. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 27:514–521PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Katzmarzyk PT, Janssen I, Ardern CI (2003) Physical inactivity, excess adiposity and premature mortality. Obes Rev 4:257–290PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klein T, Löwel H, Schneider S, Zimmermann M (2002) Soziale Beziehungen, Stress und Mortalität. Z Gerontol Geriatr 35(5):441–449PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Klein T, Unger R (2002) Aktive Lebenserwartung in Deutschland und in den USA. Kohortenbezogene Analysen auf Basis des Sozio-ökonomischen Panel und der Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Z Gerontol Geriatr 35:528–539PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kokkinos PF, Narayan P, Papademetriou V (2001) Exercise as hypertension therapy. Cardiol Clin 19(3):507–516PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kolt GS, Driver RP, Giles LC (2004) Why older Australians participate in exercise and sport. J Aging Phys Act 12:185–198PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Lampert T, Kroll LE (2005) Einfluss der Einkommensposition auf die Gesundheit und Lebenserwartung. DIW, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  41. Lamprecht M (1991) Sport und Lebensalter. ESSM, MagglingenGoogle Scholar
  42. Leslie E, Owen N, Salmon J, Bauman A, Sallis JF, Lo SK (1999) Insufficiently active Australian college students: perceived personal, social, and environmental influences. Prev Med 28:20–27PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lim K, Taylor L (2005) Factors associated with physical activity among older people—a population-based study. Prev Med 40:33–40PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lindström M, Hanson B, Östergren P-O (2001) Socioeconomic differences in leisure-time physical activity: the role of social participation and social capital in shaping health related behaviour. Soc Sci Med 52:441–451PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mensink GBM (1999) Körperliche Aktivität. Gesundheitswesen 61:126–131Google Scholar
  46. Mensink GBM, Loose N, Oomen CM (1997) Physical activity and its association with other lifestyle factors. Eur J Epidemiol 13:771–778PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Meyer K, Niemann S, Abel T (2004) Gender differences in physical activity and fitness—association with self-reported health and health-relevant attitudes in a middle-aged Swiss urban population. J Public Health 12:283–290Google Scholar
  48. Oddy WH, Holman CD, Corti B, Donovan RJ (1995) Epidemiological measures of participation in community health promotion projects. Int J Epidemiol 24:1013–1021PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Oldridge NB (1982) Compliance and exercise in primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease: a review. Prev Med 11:56–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Panagiotakos DE, Pitsavos C, Chrysohoo C, Skoumas J et al (2003) Effect of leisure time physical activity on blood lipid levels: the ATTICA study. Coron Artery Dis 14:533–539PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Patel KV, Coppin AK, Manini TM, Lauretani F et al (2006) Midlife physical activity and mobility in older age: The InCHIANTI study. Am J Prev Med 31:217–224PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pescatello DE, Franklin BA, Fagard R, Farquhar R, Farquhar WB et al (2004) American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and hypertension. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36:533–553PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pfaffenbarger RS, Hyde RT, Wing AL, Lee IM et al (1993) The associations of change in physical-activity level and other livestyle characteristics with mortality among men. N Engl J Med 328:538–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ransdell LB, Wells CL (1998) Physical activity in urban white, African-American, and Mexican-American women. Med Sci Sports Exerc 30:1608–1615PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Richards SJ (2008) Applying survival models to pensioner mortality data. Br Actuarial J 14:257–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rost K, Connell C, Schlechtman K, Barzilai B et al (1990) Predictors of employee involvement in a worksite health promotion program. Health Educ Q 17:395–407PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ruchlin HS, Lachs MS (1999) Prevalence and correlates of exercise among older adults. J Appl Gerontol 18:341–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sallis JF, Hovell MF, Hofstetter RC, Faucher P et al (1989) A multivariate study of determinants of vigorous exercise in a community sample. Prev Med 18:20–34PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sallis JF, Owen N (1999) Physical activity & behavioral medicine. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  60. Salmon J, Owen N, Crawford D, Bauman A, Sallis JF (2003) Physical activity and sedentary behavior: a population-based study of barriers, enjoyment, and preference. Health Psychol 22:178–188PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schneider S, Becker S (2005) Prevalence of physical activity among the working population and correlation with work-related factors: results from the first German National Health Survey. J Occup Health 47:414–423PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Shaw BA, Spokane LS (2008) Examining the association between education level and physical activity changes during early old age. J Aging Health 20:767–787PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shaw BA, Liang J, Krause N, Gallant M, McGeever K (2010) Age differences and social stratification in the long-term trajectories of leisure-time physical activity. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 65:756–766PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sieverding M (1998) Sind Frauen weniger gesund als Männer? Überprüfung einer verbreiteten Annahme anhand neuerer Befunde. Köln Z Soziol Sozialpsychol 50:471–489Google Scholar
  65. Sternfeld B, Ainsworth BE, Quesenberry CP (1999) Physical activity patterns in a diverse population of women. Prev Med 28:313–323PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thune I, Njølstad I, Løchen M, Førde OH (1998) Physical activity improves the metabolic risk profiles in men and women. Arch Intern Med 158:1633–1640PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Verbrugge LM, Gruber-Baldini AL, Fozard JL (1996) Age differences and age changes in activities: Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 51:S30–S41PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wannamethee SG, Shaper AG, Walker M (1998) Changes in physical activity, mortality, and incidence of coronary heart diseases in older men. Lancet 351(9116):1603–1608PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wannamethee SG, Shaper AG (2001) Physical activity in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: an epidemiological perspective. Sports Med 31:101–114PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Whaley DE, Ebbeck V (1997) Older adults’ constraints to participation in structured exercise classes. J Aging Phys Act 5:190–212Google Scholar
  71. World Health Organization (2002) Active ageing. A policy framework. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  72. World Health Organization (2003) Health and development through physical activity and sport. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  73. Yang X, Telama R, Hirvensalo M, Mattsson N, Viikari JSA, Raitakari O (2008) The longitudinal effects of physical activity history on metabolic syndrome. Med Sci Sports Exerc 40(8):1424–1431PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of SociologyUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

Personalised recommendations