Leisure-Time Physical Activity and Disability Retirement: A Prospective Cohort Study

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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To examine whether leisure-time physical activity is associated with all-cause disability retirement as well as disability retirement due to musculoskeletal and mental causes.


The baseline data were collected by questionnaire surveys in 2000−2002 among 40- to 60-year-old employees of the City of Helsinki. Disability retirement data were derived from the registry of the Finnish Centre for Pensions (maximum follow-up time 6.8 years). The analysis included 4920 women and 1355 men. Physical activity was converted to metabolic equivalent (MET) index. We classified the participants into 4 groups according to physical activity recommendations and according to the participation in vigorous intensity activities. Cox regression analysis was used to calculate hazard ratios.


Physical activity decreased the risk of all-cause disability retirement among both genders, however, women engaging in recommended volume of moderate-intensity activity only did not have reduced risk. Those engaging in vigorous activity with sufficient total volume had clearly reduced risk of disability retirement. The association was similar when examining disability retirement due to musculoskeletal and mental causes.


For healthy middle-aged engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity additional vigorous exercise may be useful for maintaining musculoskeletal and mental health and thus lower the risk of subsequent disability retirement.

The authors are with the Dept of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Hjelt-institute, Helsinki, Finland.