A growing body of literature suggests that excessive sedentary time may have deleterious health consequences, particularly among inactive individuals. Given that older adults are the least physically active and most sedentary of any demographic group, research on active, healthy aging must consider both the cause and the consequences of prolonged time spent sitting. Current evidence suggests that reducing sedentary time may be beneficial to older adults and allow them to better maintain their functional capacity and autonomy, but more research is needed to enable the development of evidence-based behavioral goals that will improve health outcomes. There is also a need to consider sedentary behavior from an organizational and societal perspective that moves beyond workplace and school settings to be inclusive of older adults, the fastest growing population in the world.
Jennifer L. Copeland
Jennifer L. Copeland and Dale W. Esliger
Despite widespread use of accelerometers to objectively monitor physical activity among adults and youth, little attention has been given to older populations. The purpose of this study was to define an accelerometer-count cut point for a group of older adults and to then assess the group’s physical activity for 7 days. Participants (N = 38, age 69.7 ± 3.5 yr) completed a laboratory-based calibration with an Actigraph 7164 accelerometer. The cut point defining moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was 1,041 counts/min. On average, participants obtained 68 min of MVPA per day, although more than 65% of this occurred as sporadic activity. Longer bouts of activity occurred in the morning (6 a.m. to 12 p.m.) more frequently than other times of the day. Almost 14 hr/day were spent in light-intensity activity. This study demonstrates the rich information that accelerometers provide about older adult activity patterns—information that might further our understanding of the relationship between physical activity and healthy aging.
Jennifer L. Copeland, Samuel Y. Chu, and Mark S. Tremblay
Women experience significant changes in endocrine function during aging. Decreasing levels of anabolic hormones may be associated with musculoskeletal atrophy and decrease in function that is observed in older women and, as a result, there has been an increase in the use of pharmacological hormone therapies. It is difficult to distinguish, however, between physiological changes that are truly age related and those that are associated with lifestyle factors such as physical activity participation. Some research has shown that circulating levels of anabolic hormones such as DHEA(S) and IGF-I in older women are related to physical activity, muscle function, and aerobic power. Exercise-intervention studies have generally shown that increasing age blunts the acute hormonal response to exercise, although this might be explained by a lower exercise intensity in older women. There have been relatively few studies that examine hormonal adaptations to exercise training. Physical activity might have an effect on hormone action as a result of changes in protein carriers and receptors, and future research needs to clarify the effect of age and exercise on these other components of the endocrine system. The value and safety of hormone supplements must be examined, especially when used in combination with an exercise program.
Jennifer L. Copeland, Kent C. Kowalski, Rachel M. Donen, and Mark S. Tremblay
To accommodate the need for longitudinal physical activity research, we developed the Physical Activity Questionnaire for Adults (PAQ-AD). The PAQ-AD is an adult version of the PAQ-C and PAQ-A questionnaires which were developed for older children and adolescents, respectively.
Two studies assessed the convergent validity of the PAQ-AD using a series of self-report tools and direct measurement of physical activity.
In the first sample (N = 247), the PAQ-AD was significantly related to a series of self-report tools (r = 0.53 to 0.64). In the second sample (N = 184), the PAQ-AD was significantly related to the self-report tools (r = 0.56 to 0.63), a physical activity recall interview (r = 0.24), and to direct measurements of physical activity (r = 0.26 to 0.43).
These results provide preliminary validity evidence for the PAQ-AD and suggest the PAQ “family” of questionnaires might be advantageous for longitudinal research assessing physical activity from childhood to adulthood.
Dale W. Esliger, Jennifer L. Copeland, Joel D. Barnes, and Mark S. Tremblay
The unequivocal link between physical activity and health has prompted researchers and public health officials to search for valid, reliable, and logistically feasible tools to measure and quantify free-living physical activity. Accelerometers hold promise in this regard. Recent technological advances have led to decreases in both the size and cost of accelerometers while increasing functionality (e.g., greater memory, waterproofing). A lack of common data reduction and standardized reporting procedures dramatically limit their potential, however. The purpose of this article is to expand on the utility of accelerometers for measuring free-living physical activity. A detailed example profile of physical activity is presented to highlight the potential richness of accelerometer data. Specific recommendations for optimizing and standardizing the use of accelerometer data are provided with support from specific examples. This descriptive article is intended to advance and ignite scholarly dialogue and debate regarding accelerometer data capture, reduction, analysis, and reporting.
Jennifer L. Copeland, Cheryl Currie, Ali Walker, Erin Mason, Taura N. Willoughby, and Ashley Amson
Providing freely accessible exercise facilities may increase physical activity at a population level. An increasingly popular strategy is outdoor fitness equipment in urban parks. Few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of this intervention in smaller cities. This study examined fitness equipment use, perceived effectiveness, and ways to increase use in a city of 100,000 people in 2015.
Two parks with fitness equipment and 4 without were directly observed. Interviews with 139 adults in active parks or living nearby were also conducted.
Only 2.7% of adult park users used the fitness equipment over 100 hours of observation across 3 seasons. In contrast, 22.3% of adults interviewed reported monthly or more use of the equipment, highlighting the limitations of self-report methods. Adults interviewed perceived the equipment as potentially beneficial and suggested strategies to increase public use, including increased advertising, the introduction of programming to teach and encourage use, improved equipment quality, and improved maintenance of the equipment and surrounding area.
In a low density city, park fitness equipment may not be an effective public health practice without additional efforts to market, introduce programming, and maintain these sites.