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Thorlene Egerton and Sandra G. Brauer

Background:

While physical activity is advocated for the elderly, little is known about the patterns of habitual activity of older people, particularly those in aged care. This study employed a novel approach to analyzing activity data to compare the temporal characteristics of daily activity between 15 older people living at home with 16 living in an aged care facility.

Methods:

The time spent standing and walking, and the number and duration of upright activity periods (greater than 1 minute) were monitored for 72 hr continuously.

Results:

Despite variation in all measures across the participants, those living in aged care spent significantly less time upright per day (2.3 hr vs. 7.2 hr), standing (1.6 hr vs. 5 hr), and walking (0.7 hr vs. 2.2 hr) than those living at home. Participants in both groups had a similar number of activity periods; however, the median activity period duration was less for those living in aged care (4 min vs. 8 min).

Conclusions:

Activity levels of both groups were low compared with recommendations. In particular, aged care residents were rarely upright for 30 min continuously, supporting the need for services to promote physical activity of older people particularly those living in aged care facilities.

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Thorlene Egerton, Kade Paterson and Jorunn L. Helbostad

This study aimed to determine if temporal-spatial gait characteristics are associated with free-living ambulatory physical activity in relatively-healthy older people. A total of 630 women and 593 men had valid data from gait tests and activity monitoring. Gait speed alone was associated with daily step count. Gait speed along with cadence, walk ratio, step length, step time, and swing time were associated with measures of higher intensity activity and overall activity. Those who walked slower were less active. After controlling for gait speed, shorter step length, shorter step time, shorter swing time, and higher cadence were associated with less activity. This finding may be an indication of the functional consequences of a breakdown in the stride length–cadence relationship and/or compensations to increase stability. Asymmetry measures at preferred and fast walking speeds showed no association with physical activity levels. Gait speed was the only predictor of change in activity over the subsequent 12 months.

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Thorlene Egerton, Sandra G. Brauer and Andrew G. Cresswell

This study aimed to determine whether physical activity similar to daily living results in signs and sensations of fatigue in healthy old, balance-impaired old, and healthy young adults. Sensations of general tiredness, leg tiredness, knee-extension and hip-abduction strength, and temporospatial gait variables were measured before, immediately after, and up to 20 min after moderate-intensity physical activity. After activity, all groups reported increased levels of tiredness but showed no changes in strength. The balance-impaired had greater and more prolonged feelings of tiredness, with a mean increase before to immediately after activity of 3.6 on the visual analogue scale and no recovery at 16 min. The young and healthy old had an increase of 3 and 2.6, respectively, and had recovered before 16 min. In the balance-impaired group only, cadence slowed immediately after activity. It is proposed that these changes, in particular the prolonged feelings of tiredness, might limit daily activity.

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Thorlene Egerton, Jorunn L. Helbostad, Dorthe Stensvold and Sebastien F.M. Chastin

Fatigue has been associated with reductions in daily activity of older people. Summary measures of daily physical activity provide limited understanding of how fatigue affects physical activity behavior. This study examined the hour-by-hour energy expenditure estimated from accelerometry data to provide insight into physical activity behaviors of older people experiencing fatigue. Fatigued participants were matched to ‘not fatigued’ participants by age, sex, and BMI. Each group consisted of 86 people with a mean age 73.8 years (SD 2.0), BMI 26.5 kg⋅m–2 (SD 3.9) and 61% female. The phase-space plot, constructed to express rate of change of average vertical axis counts per hour as a time series, showed fatigued participants deviated from the not fatigued participants during the morning period, when hour-by-hour activity was increasing. Older people who feel fatigued have a different morning activity pattern, which appears to lead to the lower overall levels of physical activity.