Physical activity (PA) may play a key role in healthy aging and thus in promoting health-related quality of life (HRQoL). However, longitudinal studies on the association between PA and HRQoL are still scarce and have shown inconsistent results. In this study, we aimed to examine the longitudinal association between frequency of moderate PA and physical and mental HRQoL. Secondly, to assess the association between a 12-month change in frequency of moderate PA and HRQoL.
A 12-month longitudinal study was conducted in Spain, Greece, Croatia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom with 1614 participants (61.0% female; mean age = 79.8; SD = 5.2) included in the analyses. Two categories of the self-reported frequency of moderate PA including 1) ‘regular frequency’ and 2) ‘low frequency’ were classified, and four categories of the change in frequency of moderate PA between baseline and follow-up including 1) ‘continued regular frequency’, 2) ‘decreased frequency’, 3) ‘continued low frequency’ and 4) ‘increased frequency’ were identified. Physical and mental HRQoL were assessed by the 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12).
The frequency of moderate PA at baseline was positively associated with HRQoL at follow-up. Participants with a continued regular frequency had the highest HRQoL at baseline and follow-up. Participants who increased the frequency of moderate PA from low to regular had better physical and mental HRQoL at follow-up than themselves at baseline. After controlling for baseline HRQoL and covariates, compared with participants who continued a regular frequency, participants who decreased their frequency had significantly lower physical (B = -4.42; P < .001) and mental (B = -3.95; P < .001) HRQoL at follow-up; participants who continued a low frequency also had significantly lower physical (B = -5.45; P < .001) and mental (B = -4.10; P < .001) HRQoL at follow-up. The follow-up HRQoL of participants who increased their frequency was similar to those who continued a regular frequency.
Maintaining or increasing to a regular frequency of PA are associated with maintaining or improving physical and mental HRQoL. Our findings support the development of health promotion and long-term care strategies to encourage older adults to maintain a regular frequency of PA to promote their HRQoL.