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Physical activity makes older adults happy

27 Sep 2020

Among older adults, those who engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (PA) at least 2.5 hours weekly are happier, a study suggests.

Researchers analysed community-based cross-sectional data from the Global Ageing and Adult Health study, which involved 14,585 adults aged ≥65 years (mean, 72.6 years; 55 percent female). They assessed PA levels using the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire. PA levels were assessed with the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire, and clocking ≥150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity PA per week was defined as meeting the recommended guidelines.

In total, 65.5 percent of the population met PA guidelines. With respect to happiness, 4.1 percent reported being very happy, 48.5 percent happy, 36.6 percent neither happy nor unhappy, 9.4 percent unhappy, and 1.3 percent very unhappy.

Among participants not meeting PA guidelines, the proportions of those who reported the corresponding happiness levels were as follows: 2.1 percent (very happy), 13.3 percent (happy), 37.9 percent (neither happy nor unhappy), 43.7 percent (unhappy), and 3.0 percent (very unhappy).

Multivariable ordinal logistic regression analysis revealed a significant association between meeting PA guidelines and more happiness (odds ratio, 1.27, 95 percent confidence interval, 1.04–1.54). This association was largely explained by difficulties in mobility (38.8 percent), followed by cognitive impairment (24.9 percent), disability (24.0 percent), social cohesion (20.0 percent), pain/discomfort (18.9 percent), sleep/energy (18.1 percent), and anxiety (8.6 percent).

The findings underscore the potential of promoting PA and addressing the coexisting conditions among older adults who do not meet PA guidelines in enhancing happiness. More studies are needed to assess directionality of the association between PA and happiness.

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