Background: Higher physical activity (PA) has been linked to better health and functioning. Trajectories of PA and associated factors have been studied in older adults aged 65, but less is known about influences on PA change in the very old (aged 85). Objective To investigate factors associated with self-reported PA and PA change over time in very old adults.
Methods: 845 participants in the Newcastle 85+ Study were followed for health and functioning at 1.5-, 3-, and 5-year follow-up (wave 2 to 4). PA scores (range 0–18) and PA levels (low (PA scores 0–1), medium (2–6) and high (7–18)) were determined using a purpose-designed PA questionnaire. We used linear mixed models (LMM) to investigate factors associated with 5-year change in PA scores.
Results: Overall, men had higher mean PA scores than women (up to 2.27 points). The highest proportion of participants (42–48%) had medium levels of PA across the waves. Although most experienced decline—stability in moderate and increases in high PA levels were also observed. The fully adjusted LMM revealed a curvilinear annual decline in PA scores of 0.52 (0.13) (β (SE), p<0.001), which decelerated by 0.07 (0.02) points (p<0.01) over time. The factors associated with low PA scores at baseline were female gender, higher waist-hip ratio, and no alcohol intake. Better self-rated and cognitive health and having fewer diseases were associated with higher PA scores. None were associated with the rate of change in PA over time.
Conclusion: We observed a curvilinear trend and deceleration in PA scores decline in the very old. Men and those in better health and who drank alcohol were more physically active at baseline. None of the factors were associated with the rate of PA decline. Investigating those who maintain or increase levels of PA may inform interventions for at risk groups with PA decline.