Research Study Abstract

Diurnal patterns of objectively measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour in older men

  • Published on July 4, 2015

Background: Physical activity (PA) levels among older adults are generally low and sedentary behaviour (SB) very common; increasing PA and reducing SB levels could have appreciable health benefits. Quantifying PA and SB patterns through the day could help in defining strategies for change. We examined within day variations in PA and SB and whether these varied by demographic factors and health status.

Methods: Men aged 71-91 years participating in an established UK population-based cohort study were invited to wear a GT3x Actigraph accelerometer over the hip for one week in 2010-12. Percentages of time spent in sedentary (SB, <100 counts per minute [CPM]); in light (LIPA, 100-1040 CPM) and in moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA, >1040 CPM) were derived. Multilevel models were used to estimate the associations between demographic factors and health status and SB, LIPA and MVPA.

Results: 1455 of 3137 men invited (46.4 %) participated and provided adequate data. Men spent 73 % of the day in SB, 23 % in LIPA and 4.5 % in MVPA (619, 197 and 39 min per day respectively). The percentage of time spent in MVPA was highest in the morning, peaking at 10-11 am (8.4 %), and then declining until the evening, with the exception of a small increase at 2-3 pm. LIPA followed a similar pattern. Conversely, SB levels were lowest in the morning and increased throughout the day, peaking at 9 pm (88 %). Men who were older, did not use active transport, had mobility limitations, were obese, depressed, had more chronic health conditions, and were smokers had lower levels of MVPA. The impacts of older age, obesity, mobility limitations and chronic diseases on LIPA, MVPA and SB were more marked in the morning than in the afternoon and evening.

Conclusions: Levels of MVPA and LIPA are highest in the morning (peak at 10-11 am) and decrease during the day. SB increases through the course of the day to peak in the evening. Interventions to encourage older men to be physically active may need to take account of current PA patterns, aiming to prolong active morning bouts of PA and/or reducing SB in the afternoon and evening hours.


BMC Public Health