Physical Activity Over 60 Enhances Life Quality

Summary: Researchers found a correlation between physical activity in adults over sixty and quality of life. The study, involving almost 1,500 participants, revealed that reduced physical activity and increased sedentary behavior lead to lower life quality.

This research underscores the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle in older adulthood. Regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activities can reduce the risk of several health complications and can enhance overall wellbeing.

Key Facts:

  1. Participants who were more physically active and spent less time in sedentary activities at the onset had a higher quality of life in later years.
  2. A decrease in physical activity and an increase in sedentary behavior over six years were associated with poorer quality of life scores.
  3. The study suggests a causal link between remaining physically active and improving quality of life, with physical activity contributing to reduced pain, improved muscle strength, and better mental health.

Source: University of Cambridge

A reduction in the amount of time spent physically active when adults are over sixty years old is linked to lower quality of life, a Cambridge study of almost 1,500 adults has shown.

The same was also true for increases in the amount of sedentary time, such as watching TV or reading. The researchers say this highlights the need to encourage older adults to remain active.

Physical activity – particularly when it is moderate-intensity and raises your heart rate – is known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Credit: Neuroscience News

The NHS recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.

Older adults are also recommended to break up prolonged periods of being sedentary with light activity when physically possible, or at least with standing, as this has distinct health benefits for older people.

A team led by researchers at the University of Cambridge examined activity levels among 1,433 participants aged 60 and above using accelerometers. The participants had been recruited to the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer)-Norfolk study.

Alongside this, the team also looked at health-related quality of life, a measure of health and wellbeing that includes pain, ability to care for yourself and anxiety/mood. Participants were given a score between 0 (worst quality of life) and 1 (best) based on their responses to a questionnaire.

Lower quality of life scores are linked with an increased risk of hospitalisation, worse outcomes following hospitalisation, and early death.

Participants were followed up an average of just under six years later to look at changes in their behaviour and quality of life.

The results of the study are published in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes.

On average, six years after their first assessment, both men and women were doing around 24 minutes less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day.

At the same time, the total sedentary time increased by an average of around 33 minutes a day for men and around 38 minutes a day for women.

Those individuals who did more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and spent less time sedentary at their first assessment had a higher quality of life later on. An hour a day spent more active was associated with a 0.02 higher quality of life score.

For every minute a day less of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity measured six years after the first assessment, quality of life scores dropped by 0.03. This means that an individual who spent 15 minutes a day less engaged in such activity would have seen their score drop by 0.45.

Increases in sedentary behaviours were also associated with poorer quality of life – a drop in the score of 0.012 for everyone minute a day increase in total sedentary time six years after the first measurement.

This means that an individual who spent 15 minutes a day more sitting down would have seen their score drop by 0.18.

To put the results into a clinical context, a 0.1 point improvement in quality of life scores has previously been associated with a 6.9% reduction in early death and a 4.2% reduction in risk of hospitalisation.

Dr Dharani Yerrakalva from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge said: “Keeping yourself active and limiting – and where you can, breaking up – the amount of time you spend sitting down is really important whatever stage of life you’re at.

This shows an older couple running.
For every minute a day less of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity measured six years after the first assessment, quality of life scores dropped by 0.03. Credit: Neuroscience News

“This seems to be particularly important in later life, when it can lead to potentially significant improvements to your quality of life and your physical and mental wellbeing.”

Because the team measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour at different points of time, they say they can be reasonably confident that they have shown a causal link – that is, that quality of life improves because people remain more physically active, for example.

Dr Yerrakalva added: “There are several ways in which improvements in our physical behaviours might help maintain a better quality of life.

“For example, more physical activity reduces pain in common conditions such as osteoarthritis, and we know that being more physically active improves muscle strength which allows older adults to continue to care for themselves.

“Similarly, depression and anxiety are linked to quality of life, and can be improved by being more active and less sedentary.”

The EPIC-Norfolk study is funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

Five ways to keep yourself physically-active in older age

  • A brisk daily walk – ideally for around 20 minutes
  • Gardening
  • A bicycle ride
  • Dancing
  • Tennis

About this aging and exercise research news

Author: Craig Brierley
Source: University of Cambridge
Contact: Craig Brierley – University of Cambridge
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Associations between change in physical activity and sedentary time and health-related quality of life in older English adults: the EPIC-Norfolk cohort study” by Dharani Yerrakalva et al. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes


Associations between change in physical activity and sedentary time and health-related quality of life in older English adults: the EPIC-Norfolk cohort study


No previous studies have examined the associations between changes in objectively-measured physical behaviours with follow-up QoL in older adults. Based on cross-sectional evidence, it is biologically plausible that such associations exist. If so, this bolsters the case for the commissioning of activity interventions and for including QoL as an outcome in trials of such interventions.


We assessed physical behaviours (total physical activity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), light physical activity, total sedentary time and prolonged sedentary bout time) for 7 days using hip-worn accelerometers at baseline (2006–2011) and follow-up (2012–2016) and health-related quality-of-life (QoL) using EQ-5D questionnaires at follow-up in 1433 participants (≥ 60 years) of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer)-Norfolk study. The EQ-5D summary score was used, with 0 as the worst to 1 as best perceived quality-of-life. We evaluated the prospective associations of baseline physical behaviours with follow-up QoL, and of changes in behaviours with follow-up QoL using multi-level regression.


On average, MVPA decreased by 4.0 min/day/year (SD 8.3) for men and 4.0 min/day/year for women (SD 12.0) between baseline and follow-up. Total sedentary time increased by an average 5.5 min/day/yr (SD 16.0) for men and 6.4 min/day/yr (SD 15.0) for women between baseline and follow-up. Mean (SD) follow-up time was 5.8 (1.8) years.

We found that higher baseline MVPA and lower sedentary time was associated with higher subsequent QoL (e.g. 1 h/day greater baseline MVPA was associated with 0.02 higher EQ-5D score, 95% CI 0.06, 0.36). More pronounced declines in activity were associated with worse Hr-QoL (0.005 (95% CI 0.003, 0.008) lower EQ-5D per min/day/yr decrease in MVPA). Increases in sedentary behaviours were also associated with poorer QoL (0.002 lower EQ-5D, 95% CI -0.003, -0.0007 per hour/day/yr increase in total sedentary time).


Promotion of physical activity and limiting sedentary time among older adults may improve quality-of-life, and therefore this relationship ought to be included in future cost effectiveness analyses so that greater commissioning of activity interventions can be considered.

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  1. Dr.Pervin Keki. Phd. Alternative pledge practice support certificate CASM567-67839611 Independent postdoctoral researcher in neuroscienceSurti says:

    Yes it is very true… As an independent postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience.. I write my initial thesis in cursive writing manually..and that boosts my brain activity and fine motor skills including enhancing my memory as I study a lot. Thanku very much for your detailed explanation..

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