Habitual walking and its correlation to better physical function: implications for prevention of physical disability in older persons

Author: Wong CH//Wong SF//Pang WS//Azizah MY////
Department of Geriatric Medicine, Geriatric Day Hospital, Alexandra Hospital, Singapore. Chek_Hooi_WONG@alexhosp.com.sg
Conference/Journal: J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci
Date published: 2003
Other: Volume ID: 58 , Issue ID: 6 , Pages: 555-60 , Word Count: 213

BACKGROUND: Our objective was to determine the association between participation in habitual physical activity (including walking, shopping, and indoor and outdoor activities) and leisure-time or sports activities on physical performance and fitness in older persons. METHODS: In an observational study, 123 predominantly ethnic Chinese participants aged 50 years and older were recruited from a health promotion program. Main outcome measures were bioelectric impedance for body fat composition, peak oxygen consumption (VO(2)max), gait speed, handgrip strength, and chair rise time. RESULTS: The mean age of participants was years. Those with a higher self-reported walking level had a better VO(2)max; every 1 minute per day increase in habitual walking increases VO(2)max by 0.096 (ml/kg)/min (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.027-0.165, p=.007) and is possibly associated with a faster gait speed; (95% CI 0.000-0.005, p=.078). There is an age-related rise in body fat composition, decline in VO(2)max, and slower chair rise time. Men had a lower body fat composition, better VO(2)max, and stronger handgrip. CONCLUSIONS: Habitual walking may impart important health benefits in terms of improvement in physical performance, fitness, and its implications for the prevention of physical disability in older adults. This also reinforces the theory that low- to moderate-intensity activities may improve cardiorespiratory fitness. There is an inevitable physiological age-related decline in physical fitness.