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The relation between non-occupational physical activity and years lived with and without disability
  1. W J Nusselder1,
  2. C W N Looman1,
  3. O H Franco2,
  4. A Peeters3,
  5. A S Slingerland1,
  6. J P Mackenbach1
  1. 1
    Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2
    Unilever Corporate Research, Colworth House, Sharnbrook, UK; Erasmus MC. University Medical Center Rotterdam, Department of Public Health, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University Central and Eastern Clinical School, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Dr W J Nusselder, Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, the Netherlands; w.nusselder{at}


Objectives: The effects of non-occupational physical activity were assessed on the number of years lived with and without disability between age 50 and 80 years.

Methods: Using the GLOBE study and the Longitudinal Study of Aging, multi-state life tables were constructed yielding the number of years with and without disability between age 50 and 80 years. To obtain life tables by level of physical activity (low, moderate, high), hazard ratios were derived for different physical activity levels per transition (non-disabled to disabled, non-disabled to death, disabled to non-disabled, disabled to death) adjusted for age, sex and confounders.

Results: Moderate, compared to low non-occupational physical activity reduced incidence of disability (HR 0.66, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.86), increased recovery (HR 1.95, 95% CI 1.32 to 2.87), and represents a gain of disability-free years and a loss of years with disability (male 3.1 and 1.2; female 4.0 and 2.8 years). Performing high levels of non-occupational physical activity further reduced incidence, and showed a higher gain in disability-free years (male 4.1; female 4.7), but a similar reduction in years with disability.

Conclusion: Among 50–80-year-olds promoting physical activity is a fundamental factor to achieve healthy ageing.

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  • Funding: This study was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (ZON-MW grant: 014-91-054). WN, CL, AP and OHF were partly funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (ZON-MW grants: 014-91-054). AP was also partly funded as a VicHealth Public Health Research Fellow. The funding organizations did not participate in and did not influence the design and conduct of the study, collection, management, analysis or interpretation of the data; preparation, reviewing or approval of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests: None.

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