Relationships between profiles of physical activity and major mobility disability in the LIFE study

Review written by Dr Mariana Wingood info

Key Points

  1. The strongest predictor of physical disability is physical inactivity, highlighting the importance of promoting general physical activity in addition to a home exercise program.
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Aging is associated with age-related changes that result in a decline in the musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, and cardiovascular systems. However, sometimes it is difficult to determine if the primary cause of age-related changes are secondary to biological aging (primary aging), or if it is the decreased levels of physical activity seen among this population (secondary aging) (1,2).

Among older adults physical inactivity is the strongest single predictor of physical disability and results in significantly greater loss in muscle quality and quantity (3). This highlights the need for incorporating physical activity (PA) assessments and prescription into clinical practice. Historically, PA research has focused on exercise, a subset of PA that is defined as a planned, structured, and repeated behavior aimed to maintain or improve components of physical fitness (4). Exercise is usually done at a moderate to vigorous intensity. As many older adults shy away from moderate to vigorous levels of PA (MVPA), and research regarding light PA (LPA) and its benefits continues to evolve, it is important to examine the relationship between various PA profiles and mobility-related disability.

The authors of this paper aimed to examine the relationship between time spent in LPA and MVPA, and the pattern of accumulating these activities, on the risk for major mobility disability (MMD) among older adults with compromised physical function who were Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study participants.

Among older adults physical inactivity is the strongest single predictor of physical disability.
In the end the goal should be moderate-vigorous physical activity, even if it is not appropriate initially.


Design: Randomized controlled trial Participants: 507 older adult participants at risk for MMD. Mean age was 78.4 years. Intervention: Participants were asked to exercise 5-6 days/week with two weekly center-based exercise sessions. For the first 2 to 3 weeks of

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