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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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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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Mirja Hirvensalo, Päivi Lampinen and Taina Rantanen

This study examined changes in involvement in physical exercise and the motives for and obstacles to participation over an 8-year period in a representative sample of senior residents of Jyväskylä. Finland. The participants were noninslitulionalized seniors age 65-84 years at baseline in 1988. The most common form of physical exercise was walking for fitness. In men, participation in supervised exercise classes and performing calisthenic exercises at home increased over the follow-up. In women, physical exercise generally declined. The most important reason quoted for nonparticipation at both baseline and follow-up was poor health (65-88%). Among those who reported participation in supervised physical exercise, the most important motives were health promotion (80%) and social reasons (40-50%). The main obstacles were poor health (19-38%) and lack of interest (28-26%). It is an important challenge to remove obstacles to participation in physical activity in old age and to give older people every opportunity to get involved.

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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.

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Minna Rasinaho, Mirja Hirvensalo, Raija Leinonen, Taru Lintunen and Taina Rantanen

The purpose of this study was to investigate what older adults with severe, moderate, or no mobility limitation consider motives for and barriers to engaging in physical exercise. Community-dwelling adults (N = 645) age 75–81 years completed a questionnaire about their motives for and barriers to physical exercise and answered interview questions on mobility limitation. Those with severely limited mobility more often reported poor health, fear and negative experiences, lack of company, and an unsuitable environment as barriers to exercise than did those with no mobility limitation. They also accentuated disease management as a motive for exercise, whereas those with no or moderate mobility limitation emphasized health promotion and positive experiences related to exercise. Information about differences in motives for and barriers to exercise among people with and without mobility limitation helps tailor support systems that support engagement in physical activity among older adults.

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Lotta Palmberg, Erja Portegijs, Taina Rantanen, Eeva Aartolahti, Anne Viljanen, Mirja Hirvensalo and Merja Rantakokko

Background: Many older people report a willingness to increase outdoor physical activity (PA), but no opportunities for it, a situation termed as unmet PA need. The authors studied whether lower neighborhood mobility and PA precede the development of unmet PA need. Methods: Community-dwelling 75- to 90-year-old people (n = 700) were interviewed annually for 2 years. Unmet PA need, neighborhood mobility, and PA were self-reported. In addition, accelerometer-based step counts were assessed among a subgroup (n = 156). Results: Logistic regression analyses revealed that lower baseline neighborhood mobility (odds ratio 3.02, 95% confidence interval [1.86, 4.90] vs. daily) and PA (odds ratio 4.37, 95% confidence interval [2.62, 7.29] vs. high) were associated with the development of unmet PA need over 2 years. The participants with higher step counts had a lower risk for unmet PA need (odds ratio 0.68, 95% confidence interval, [0.54, 0.87]). Conclusion: Maintaining higher PA levels and finding solutions for daily outdoor mobility, especially for those with declines in health, may protect from the development of unmet PA need.

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Kirsi E. Keskinen, Merja Rantakokko, Kimmo Suomi, Taina Rantanen and Erja Portegijs

The authors studied associations of nature- and infrastructure-based features with physical activity (PA) in different urban neighborhood types; 848 community-dwelling people aged 75–90 years reported PA and three perceived nature-based destinations and seven infrastructure-based features as outdoor mobility facilitators. Neighborhood type was defined using a geographic information system based on proximity to central service areas and residential density (city center, subcenter, and dense and dispersed areas outside centers). PA was higher in dense areas and the city center. Binary logistic regression showed that perceiving nature-based destinations increased the odds for higher PA in the city center and areas outside centers. In dispersed areas, perceived infrastructure-based facilitators were especially associated with higher PA. Environmental features were not associated with PA in subcenters. Higher residential density, as a proxy for a higher amount of infrastructure, rather than center proximity, may underlie older adults’ PA. The spatial context should be acknowledged in studies on environment–PA associations.

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Li-Tang Tsai, Merja Rantakokko, Anne Viljanen, Milla Saajanaho, Johanna Eronen, Taina Rantanen and Erja Portegijs

This cross-sectional study investigated associations between reasons to go outdoors and objectively-measured walking activity in various life-space areas among older people. During the study, 174 community-dwelling older people aged 75–90 from central Finland wore an accelerometer over seven days and recorded their reasons to go outdoors in an activity diary. The most common reasons for going outdoors were shopping, walking for exercise, social visits, and running errands. Activities done in multiple life-space areas contributed more to daily step counts than those done in the neighborhood or town and beyond. Those who went shopping or walked for exercise accumulated higher daily step counts than those who did not go outdoors for these reasons. These results show that shopping and walking for exercise are common reasons to go outdoors for community-dwelling older people and may facilitate walking activity in older age. Future studies on how individual trips contribute to the accumulation of steps are warranted.

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Johanna Eronen, Mikaela von Bonsdorff, Merja Rantakokko, Erja Portegijs, Anne Viljanen and Taina Rantanen

Life-space mobility describes the extent of community mobility of older persons. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to examine the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and life-space mobility and to investigate whether associations might be explained by SES-related disparities in health and functioning. The participants (n = 848) were community-dwelling adults aged 75–90. Education and occupation were used to indicate SES. Life-space assessment (range 0–120) was used to indicate distance and frequency of moving and assistance needed in moving. People with low education had lower life-space mobility scores than those with intermediate or high education: marginal means 63.5, 64.8, and 70.0 (p = .003), respectively. SES-related health disparities, i.e., higher body mass index, poorer cognitive capacity, and poorer physical performance explained the association, rendering it nonsignificant (marginal means 65.2, 65.3, and 67.5, p = .390). Low SES and restricted life-space mobility often coexist with overweight, reduced cognition, and poorer physical performance.

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Milla Saajanaho, Anne Viljanen, Sanna Read, Merja Rantakokko, Li-Tang Tsai, Jaakko Kaprio, Marja Jylhä and Taina Rantanen

This study investigated the associations of personal goals with exercise activity, as well as the relationships between exercise-related and other personal goals, among older women. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs were used with a sample of 308 women ages 66–79 at baseline. Women who reported exercise-related personal goals were 4 times as likely to report high exercise activity at baseline than those who did not report exercise-related goals. Longitudinal results were parallel. Goals related to cultural activities, as well as to busying oneself around the home, coincided with exercise-related goals, whereas goals related to own and other people’s health and independent living lowered the odds of having exercise-related goals. Helping older adults to set realistic exercise-related goals that are compatible with their other life goals may yield an increase in their exercise activity, but this should be evaluated in a controlled trial.