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Physical Activity Among Urban-Living Middle-Aged and Older Japanese During the Build-Up to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games: A Population Study

Michael Annear, Tetsuhiro Kidokoro, and Yasuo Shimizu

This research examines physical activity (PA) parameters among urban-living middle-aged and older Japanese during the Tokyo Olympic build-up period. Population sampling was employed, and an online survey was administered with 4,000 adults across Japan’s five largest cities. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form constituted the main outcome variable, with auxiliary measures of Olympic interest and engagement, readiness for PA behavior change, perceived environmental barriers, and demographic information. Despite interest in the Olympics (>60% moderate–high interest), planned engagement with the event was low (>70% planned passive engagement). Higher levels of interest and planned engagement were both significantly correlated with greater self-reported PA participation (p < .001). Across the sample, the PA levels were in the low–moderate range (990 metabolic equivalent of task-min/week), with significant variations observed by the age-cohort and geographic area (p < .001). Age-cohort and geographic variations were also identified with regard to readiness for PA behavior change and perceived environmental barriers to activity (p < .001). Older age (65 years and above) and host city (Tokyo) residence emerged as correlates of higher levels of PA, greater readiness for behavior change, and fewer reported barriers to participation. These findings have implications for Olympic legacy management and successful transitions from middle age to later life in Japan.

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Physical Activity and Health of Middle-Aged and Older Japanese Across the COVID-19 Pandemic: Differential Outcomes Highlight a Problematic Life Stage

Michael Annear, Tetsuhiro Kidokoro, and Yasuo Shimizu

Introduction: COVID-19 caused major disruptions across the super-aged nation of Japan, yet few studies explored temporal changes among middle-aged and older cohorts from baseline to the height of community transmission. Changes in physical activity and sedentary behavior during global pandemics may alter patterns of morbidity and mortality among susceptible aging populations. Objectives: This study investigated patterns of physical activity, sitting behavior, and health among representative samples of middle-aged and older adults in Tokyo before and during the pandemic. Methods: Repeated online surveys were conducted with quota samples of 800 Tokyo residents in 2019 and 2021 using validated Japanese-language measures, including the short form-International Physical Activity Questionnaire and the Basic Ecological Health Scale-6. Statistical analyses included comparative evaluations of activity parameters by age cohort, gender, and selected covariates. Statistical tests included the Kruskal–Wallis test, Mann–Whitney U test, chi-square test for Independence and Hierarchical Regression. Results: Over 34% of respondents were inactive at each data collection point, and 72% reported negative impacts of COVID-19 on their physical activities. Older adults showed no significant changes in their activity and sitting behavior and reported better health compared with those in middle age across the pandemic. Middle-aged males reported a significant decline in total activity of 33% across the pandemic period (U = 16,958, z = −2.64, p = .008, r = .13). Middle-aged females reported the lowest levels of physical activity, and health, and showed a 29% increase in sitting behavior across the pandemic (U = 16,925, z = −2.68, p = .007, r = .13). Subjective health status was consistently associated with higher overall activity and walking before and during the pandemic. Conclusion: Differential outcomes were identified between age and gender regarding health, physical activity, walking, and sitting across the pandemic with significantly worse impacts reported among middle-aged samples. Implications: These results have implications for healthy transitions to later life and the design of postpandemic interventions to address activity opportunities in Japan.