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Is lifestyle change around retirement associated with better physical performance in older age?: insights from a longitudinal cohort

Robinson, Sian M and Westbury, Leo D and Ward, Kate and Syddall, Holly and Cooper, Rachel and Cooper, Cyrus and Sayer, Avan A (2021) Is lifestyle change around retirement associated with better physical performance in older age?: insights from a longitudinal cohort. European Journal of Ageing. ISSN 1613-9372 (In Press)

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Abstract

A growing evidence base links individual lifestyle factors to physical performance in older age but much less is known about their combined effects, or the impact of lifestyle change. In a group of 937 participants from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, we examined their number of lifestyle risk factors at 53 and 60-64 years in relation to their physical performance at 60-64, and the change in number of risk factors between these ages in relation to change in physical performance. At both assessments, information about lifestyle (physical activity, smoking, diet) was obtained via self-reports and height and weight were measured. Each participant’s number of lifestyle risk factors out of: obesity (body mass index ≥30kg/m2 ); inactivity (no leisure time physical activity over previous month); current smoking; poor diet (quality score in bottom quarter of distribution) was determined at both ages. Physical performance: measured grip strength, chair rise and standing balance times at both ages and conditional change (independent of baseline) in physical performance outcomes from 53 to 60-64 were assessed. There were some changes in the pattern of lifestyle risk factors between assessments: 227 (24%) participants had fewer risk factors by age 60-64; 249 (27%) had more. Reductions in risk factors were associated with better physical performance at 60-64 and smaller declines over time (all p<0.05); these associations were robust to adjustment. Strategies to support reduction in number of lifestyle risk factors around typical retirement age may have beneficial effects on physical performance in early older age.

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