This study examined whether leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) was associated with health-care utilization in a racially diverse sample of rural and urban older adults. Community-dwelling adults (N = 1,000, 75.32 ± 6.72 years old) self-reported participating in LTPA and their use of the health-care system (physician visits, number and length of hospitalizations, and emergency-room visits). After controlling for variables associated with health and health-care utilization, older adults who reported lower levels of LTPA also reported a greater number of nights in the hospital in the preceding year. There was no support, however, for a relationship between LTPA and the other indicators of health-care utilization. Our findings suggest that being physically active might translate to a quicker recovery for older adults who are hospitalized. Being physically active might not only have health benefits for older persons but also lead to lower health-care costs.
Martin and Zhu are with the Dept. of Medicine; Powell, the Dept. of Health Services Administration and the Deep South Center on Effectiveness; Peel, the School of Health Professions; and Allman, the Birmingham/Atlanta VA Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294-3361.