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Sarah J. Parker, Scott J. Strath and Ann M. Swartz

This study examined the relationship between physical activity (PA) and mental health among older adults as measured by objective and subjective PA-assessment instruments. Pedometers (PED), accelerometers (ACC), and the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly (PASE) were administered to measure 1 week of PA among 84 adults age 55–87 (mean = 71) years. General mental health was measured using the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) and the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWL). Linear regressions revealed that PA estimated by PED significantly predicted 18.1%, 8.3%, and 12.3% of variance in SWL and positive and negative affect, respectively, whereas PA estimated by the PASE did not predict any mental health variables. Results from ACC data were mixed. Hotelling–William tests between correlation coefficients revealed that the relationship between PED and SWL was significantly stronger than the relationship between PASE and SWL. Relationships between PA and mental health might depend on the PA measure used.

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Scott J. Strath, Ann M. Swartz and Susan E. Cashin

This study examined objectively determined walking profiles of older adults across a wide range of sociocultural backgrounds. All individuals (N = 415; 131 men age 70.5 ± 9.2 yr and 284 women age 71.5 ± 9.0 yr) underwent physiological measurements, completed pen-and-paper surveys, and wore a pedometer for 7 consecutive days. The total sample accumulated a mean of 3,987 ± 2,680 steps/day. Age (r = –.485, p < .001) and body-mass index (BMI; r = –.353, p < .001) were negatively associated with steps per day. Multivariate analysis revealed that race/ethnic category (F = 3.15, df = 3), gender (F = 2.46, df = 1), BMI (F = 6.23, df = 2), income (F = 9.86, df = 1), education (F = 43.3, df = 1), and retirement status (F = 52.3, df = 1) were significantly associated with steps per day. Collectively these categories accounted for 56% of the variance in walking activity in this independently living, community-dwelling older adult sample. Sedentary characteristics highlighted within, and step-per-day values specific to, older adults have implications for planning targeted physical activity interventions related to walking activity in this population.

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Ann Swartz, Scott Strath, Sarah Parker, Nora Miller and Linda Cieslik

Background:

The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which physical activity (PA) is related to obesity in older adults when accounting for race/ethnicity.

Methods:

Cross-sectional data were collected on 214 older adults (72.3 ± 8.9 y; body mass index [BMI] 28.9 ± 6.0; 151 females; 96 non-White). Measures of body height and mass were collected; BMI was calculated. PA was assessed via an electronic pedometer worn for seven consecutive days.

Results:

“White” subjects accumulated 5036 ± 286 steps/d. “Non-White” subjects accumulated significantly fewer steps/d (3671 ± 253 steps/d; z = −3.45, P = 0.001). Race/ethnicity, income, age, gender, and steps/d accounted for 27.4% (P < 0.001) of the variance in BMI, with steps/d accounting for 21.2% (P < 0.001). The most influential factor in this model was PA level (β = −0.510), followed by age (β = −0.220), and finally gender being the least influential, but still a significant factor (β = 0.168).

Conclusion:

Although race/ethnicity and income have been associated with obesity levels, this study shows that older adults who accumulate more ambulatory activity tend to have healthier levels of BMI irrespective of race/ethnicity or income.

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Scott Strath, Ann Swartz, Sarah Parker, Nora Miller and Linda Cieslik

Background:

Little data exists describing the impact that walking has on metabolic syndrome (MetS) in a multicultural sample of older adults.

Methods:

Walking was measured via pedometer in 150 older adults from four different ethnic categories. Steps per day were classified as low (<3,100 steps/d) or high (≥3,100 steps/d) for statistical analyses.

Results:

Occurrence of MetS was lower in the white (33%) versus non-white population (50%). Low steps/d were related to an increase in MetS for both white (OR = 96.8, 95% CI 12.3-764.6) and non-white individuals (OR = 4.5, 95% CI 1.8-11.3). Low steps/d also increased the odds for selected components of MetS in both the white and non-white groups.

Conclusion:

Low levels of walking increase the likelihood of having MetS in both white and non-white older adults. Efforts to increase walking in older adults may decrease the likelihood of developing this clustering of disease risk factors.

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Whitney A. Welch, Ann M. Swartz, Chi C. Cho and Scott J. Strath

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the accuracy of direct observation (DO) to estimate MET level and intensity category during laboratory-based and free-living activity in older adults. Older adults engaged in unstructured laboratory and free-living activity. Participants wore a portable metabolic system to measure energy expenditure and were directly observed. DO recorded MET-level point estimates. 32,401 in-laboratory and 87,715 free-living data points (9 participants, 67% male, 71.0 ± 6.9 years, 27.1 ± 4.3 kg·m–2) were included in final analysis. Results revealed 45.4% of in-laboratory and 61.1% of free-living mean DO activities fell within 0.5 METs of the measured MET values. DO accurately classified intensity category 45.0% of the time in-laboratory and 50.9% of free-living observations. DO-estimated activity cost resulted in low point estimate accuracy however there was low variability between the mean measured and estimated METs. This suggests, dependent on the desired outcome, DO could provide a viable option for activity assessment, however, the low point estimate accuracy presents a need for further research to continue to refine the approach to increase accuracy.

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Nicholas L. Lerma, Ann M. Swartz, Taylor W. Rowley, Hotaka Maeda and Scott J. Strath

Background:

The ill-health effects of sedentary behavior are becoming well-documented, yet older adults spend 70–80% of waking hours sedentary.

Purpose:

To determine if a portable elliptical device increases energy expenditure (EE) while performing popular seated activities.

Methods:

Twenty older adults (68.1 ± 1.4 years) participated to compare the measured EE between seated rest and three randomized seated pedaling activities: computer use, reading, TV viewing. Each pedaling activity included 5-min of self-selected paced/no resistance (SSP) and externally paced/added resistance pedaling (Paced).

Results:

A significant increase in EE existed during SSP (+1.44 ± 0.12 kcal/min) and Paced (+2.19 ± 0.09 kcal/min) pedaling relative to Seated Rest (p < .001). EE during the Paced activities was significantly greater than all SSP activities (p <.01).

Conclusion:

Extrapolating these results, pedaling at a SSP for an hour while performing seated activities is equivalent to the net EE of walking 1.6 miles. Future home-based effectiveness and feasibility should be explored.

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Elizabeth K. Grimm, Ann M. Swartz, Teresa Hart, Nora E. Miller and Scott J. Strath

Older adult physical activity (PA) levels obtained from the International Physical Activity Questionnaire–Short Form (IPAQ) and accelerometry (ACC) were compared. Mean difference scores between accumulated or bout ACC PA and the IPAQ were computed. Spearman rank-order correlations were used to assess relations between time spent in PA measured from ACC and self-reported form of the IPAQ, and percentage agreement across measures was used to classify meeting or not meeting PA recommendations. The IPAQ significantly underestimated sitting and overestimated time spent in almost all PA intensities. Group associations across measures revealed significant relations in walking, total PA, and sitting for the whole group (r = .29–.36, p < .05). Significant relationships between bout ACC and IPAQ walking (r = .28–.39, p < .05) were found. There was 40–46% agreement between measures for meeting PA recommendations. The IPAQ appears not to be a good indicator of individual older adult PA behavior but is better suited for larger population-based samples.

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Nora E. Miller, Scott J. Strath, Ann M. Swartz and Susan E. Cashin

This study examined the predictive validity of accelerometers (ACC) to estimate physical activity intensity (PAI) across age and differences in intensity predictions when expressed in relative and absolute PAI terms. Ninety adults categorized into 3 age groups (20–29, 40–49, and 60–69 yr) completed a treadmill calibration study with simultaneous ACC (7164 Actigraph) and oxygen-consumption assessment. Results revealed strong linear relations between ACC output and measured PAI (R 2 = .62–.89) across age and similar ACC cut-point ranges across age delineating absolute PAI ranges compared with previous findings. Comparing measured metabolic equivalents (METs) with estimated METs derived from previously published regression equations revealed that age did not affect predictive validity of ACC estimates of absolute PAI. Comparing ACC output expressed in relative vs. absolute terms across age revealed substantial differences in PAI ACC count ranges. Further work is warranted to increase the applicability of ACC use relative to PAI differences associated with physiological changes with age.

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Aubrianne E. Rote, Lori A. Klos, Michael J. Brondino, Amy E. Harley and Ann M. Swartz

Background:

Facebook may be a useful tool to provide a social support group to encourage increases in physical activity. This study examines the efficacy of a Facebook social support group to increase steps/day in young women.

Methods:

Female college freshmen (N = 63) were randomized to one of two 8-week interventions: a Facebook Social Support Group (n = 32) or a Standard Walking Intervention (n = 31). Participants in both groups received weekly step goals and tracked steps/day with a pedometer. Women in the Facebook Social Support Group were also enrolled in a Facebook group and asked to post information about their steps/day and provide feedback to one another.

Results:

Women in both intervention arms significantly increased steps/day pre- to postintervention (F (8,425) = 94.43, P < .001). However, women in the Facebook Social Support Group increased steps/day significantly more (F (1,138) = 11.34, P < .001) than women in the Standard Walking Intervention, going from 5295 to 12,472 steps/day.

Conclusions:

These results demonstrate the potential effectiveness of using Facebook to offer a social support group to increase physical activity in young women. Women in the Facebook Social Support Group increased walking by approximately 1.5 miles/day more than women in the Standard Walking Intervention which, if maintained, could have a profound impact on their future health.

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Ann M. Swartz, Scott J. Strath, Sarah J. Parker and Nora E. Miller

The purpose of this study was to investigate the combined impact of obesity and physical activity (PA) on the health of older adults. Pedometer-determined steps/d, body-mass index (BMI), resting blood pressure, and fasting glucose (FG) were assessed in 137 older adults (69.0 ± 8.9 yr). The active group (>4,227 steps/d) had lower systolic blood pressure (SBP; p = .001), diastolic blood pressure (DBP; p = .028), and FG (p < .001) than the inactive group (≤4,227 steps/d). The normal-BMI group (18.5-24.9 kg/m2) had lower SBP (p < .001) and DBP (p = .01) than the obese group (≤30 kg/m2). There were no differences in SBP (p = .963) or DBP (p = 1.0) between active obese and inactive normal-BMI groups. The active obese group, however, had a more favorable FG than the inactive normal-BMI group (χ2 = 18.9, df = 3, p = .001). Efforts to increase PA of older adults should receive the same priority as reducing obesity to improve BP and FG levels.