Background Although both low physical activity (PA) and high sedentary behaviour (SB) levels may increase cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among older people, the independence of their effects on CVD risk and the impact of PA and SB bouts of differing durations remain uncertain. We have therefore examined the associations between objectively measured PA of different intensities and bout durations, SB of different bout durations, and carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), a non-invasive marker of CVD risk, among older men.
Methods We used cross sectional data from community-dwelling men aged 71–91 years (British Regional Heart Study) (71–91 years) recruited from 24 primary care practices. Men wore an Actigraph GT3x accelerometer to quantify physical activity and sedentary behaviour, and had CIMT measured using ultrasound. We used linear regression models to investigate whether CIMT was independently associated with (i) total physical activity (counts per minute, cpm), (ii) moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA, >1040 cpm), (iii) light activity (LPA, 100–1040 cpm) and (iv) sedentary behaviour (SB, <100 cpm) and to examine whether bouts of different durations of MVPA, LPA and SB were associated with CIMT independently of total amounts.
Results 1438/3137 men (46%) had data for CIMT, all covariates and >= 600 min/day of accelerometer data. 239 men with pre-existing CVD were excluded, leaving 1199 in analyses. After adjusting for accelerometer wear time, season, region of residence, age, social class, living alone, smoking and alcohol consumption, both higher total PA and higher LPA were associated with lower CIMT, and SB with higher CIMT. Each additional 1000 cpm/day of total PA was associated with a 0.0012 mm (95% CI –0.0022, –0.0002) lower CIMT and each additional 30 min/day of LPA with a 0.007 mm (95% CI –0.012, –0.002) lower CIMT. A non-significant inverse association was observed between MVPA and CIMT. Conversely, each additional 30 min/day of SB was associated with a 0.005 mm higher CIMT (95% CI 0.002, 0.009). The associations between LPA, SB and CIMT were little affected by adjustment for MVPA. We found no associations between CIMT and bouts of different durations of LPA, SB or MVPA, independent of total amounts of LPA, SB or MVPA respectively.
Conclusion Our findings suggest that LPA reduces CVD risk and that sedentary time is detrimental. Few older adults meet current guidelines for physical activity, which include moderate and/or vigorous activity. Light activity may also be important for older adults, and studies such as this may inform future discussions of physical activity recommendations for this age group.
- physical activity
- cardiovascular risk
- older adults
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