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Leisure time physical activity and strenuousness of work as predictors of physical functioning: a 28 year follow up of a cohort of industrial employees


Aims: To examine associations of leisure time physical activity and physical strenuousness of work with physical functioning 28 years later.

Methods: A cohort (n = 902) of metal industry employees was studied for exercise and housework activity in 1973 and 1978, and for BMI, current smoking, strenuousness of work, grip strength, and chronic diseases in 1973. Of the 670 survivors in 2000, 529 (79%) responded to all studied items in a follow up questionnaire including the SF-36 Physical Functioning (PF) scale. Belonging to the lower quartile of the PF scale denoted poor functioning.

Results: Vigorous exercise and housework activity were inversely associated with poor PF 28 years later in both white-collar and blue-collar workers. Engaging in activities of any intensity was similarly associated among the blue-collar workers. In a multiple logistic regression model including as independent variables age, sex, occupational class, the number of chronic diseases, vigorous leisure time physical activity, BMI, physical work strenuousness, and smoking (all measured at baseline), the risk of poor PF at follow up was decreased by vigorous leisure time physical activity and increased by high physical strenuousness of work, high BMI, and smoking. The effect of work strenuousness was mainly due to that among the blue-collar group. Allowing for baseline grip strength did not materially alter the results.

Conclusion: Vigorous leisure time physical activity decreased the risk of poor physical functioning as perceived considerably later in life, while high work strenuousness, smoking, and overweight increased it. Among blue-collar workers a beneficial association was observed with all leisure time activity, including that of lower intensity.

  • BMI, body mass index
  • LTPA, leisure time physical activity
  • PF, Physical Functioning scale
  • cohort study
  • overweight
  • quality of life
  • smoking
  • socioeconomic status

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