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Eino Heikkinen

This paper provides a detailed description of the experimental design and chronology of the Evergreen Project, the aims of which were to profile the health and functional capacity of the elderly population of Jyväskylä, Finland, to examine changes in health and functional capacity over time, and to identify the factors related to living conditions and lifestyle that predict changes in functional capacity and health. Residents of Jyväskylä were invited to participate in a series of interviews and laboratory testing sessions. The interviews focused on (a) illnesses, the use of drugs, perceived health, symptoms, and psychosocial well-being, (b) physical and mental capacity and ADL functional capacity, (c) social togetherness and community activity, and (d) living conditions. lifestyle, and life history. The laboratory examinations assessed health status and drug use. anthropometric status, physical performance. sensory functions, perceptual-motor coordination, cognitive capacity and metacognitions. and neuropsychological functioning. A detailed breakdown of the participation and attrition rates, demographic characteristics, and normative data for each age cohort is provided.

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Taina Rantanen and Eino Heikkinen

The aim of this study was to examine alterations in maximal isometric strength of multiple muscle groups over 5 years and to compare strength changes between individuals who maintained a high level of physical activity and others who did not. As a part of the Evergreen Project, 20 men and 59 women participated in at least one strength test at the age of 80 and again 5 years later. Men displayed no decrease in lean body mass over the follow-up. and the only significant strength decrease was in elbow flexion strength. In women, both lean body mass and muscle strength decreased significantly (except trunk extension strength). Overall, those men and women who were considered to have maintained a high level of activity retained their strength at a higher level than the more sedentary participants. Older people should be encouraged to continue physically demanding activities to maintain muscle strength at an adequate level for independent living.

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Pia Laukkanen, Markku Kauppinen, and Eino Heikkinen

Identifying predictors of functional limitations among the elderly is essential for planning and implementing appropriate preventive services. The purpose of this prospective study was to examine baseline physical activity as a predictor of health and functional ability outcomes 5 years later in people age 75 and 80 years at baseline. A clear trend was observed: The more physically active subjects had better health and functional ability compared to their more sedentary counterparts. After controlling for the baseline status, the degree of physical activity did not predict future disability but still maintained its predictive role at the level of disease severity. It is suggested that the level of habitual physical activity is an important predictor of health and functional ability among elderly people. Presumably, however, there is a reciprocal causal relationship between physical activity and health in elderly people. Physical activity counseling should therefore be included in preventive health strategies for the elderly.

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Sanna Sihvonen, Taina Rantanen, and Eino Heikkinen

Changes in physical activity levels were followed over 5 years and the relationship between baseline physical activity and survival was investigated among residents of Jyväskylä. Baseline interviews were carried out for 109 men and 204 women age 75, and 67 men and 178 women age 80. At the time of the follow-up interviews 5 years later. 23 men and 37 women who were age 75 at baseline and 23 men and 50 women who were age 80 at baseline had died. Activity decreased significantly over the 5-year period in all groups. A greater proportion of women than men decreased their activity level in both age groups. Physical activity was significantly associated with better survival (p = .006) in the 80-year-old women, and a similar significant difference (p = .024) was observed among 75-year-old men. The differences in the survival curves in the other groups, although similar, were not statistically significant due to the small number of subjects and lack of statistical power.

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Taina Rantanen, Pertti Era, Markku Kauppinen, and Eino Heikkinen

This study analyzes the associations of socioeconomic status (SES), health, and physical activity with maximal isometric strength in 75-year-old men (n = 104) and women (n = 191). Maximal isometric strength was measured with dynamometers; the forces were adjusted using body weight. The maximal forces for women varied from 66% (trunk flexion) to 73% (knee extension) of those of the men. SES was not associated with muscle force. For men the trunk forces and elbow flexion force correlated negatively with the number of chronic diseases, index of musculoskeletal pain, and self-rated health. For women all the strength test results correlated with self-rated health; the other health indicators showed significant correlation with trunk extension force only. For both sexes the physically more active exhibited greater strength. The index of musculoskeletal symptoms explained the variance on trunk force factor in both sexes. It was concluded that a higher level of everyday physical activity and good values in the state-of-health indicators were the most important variables explaining greater strength among the elderly.