Laudani, Luca and Vannozzi, Giuseppe and Sawacha, Zimi and Della Croce, Ugo and Cereatti, Andrea and Macaluso, Andrea (2013) Association between physical activity levels and physiological factors underlying mobility in young, middle-aged and older individuals living in a city district. PLoS One, Vol. 8 (9), e74227. eISSN 1932-6203. Article.
Maintaining adequate levels of physical activity is known to preserve health status and functional independence as individuals grow older. However, the relationship between determinants of physical activity (volume and intensity) and physiological factors underlying mobility (cardio-respiratory fitness, neuromuscular function and functional abilities) is still unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between objectively quantified physical activity and a spectrum of physiological factors underlying mobility in young, middle-aged and older individuals living in a city district. Experiments were carried out on 24 young (28±2 years), 24 middle-aged (48±2 years) and 24 older (70±3 years) gender-matched volunteers. Physical activity was monitored by a wearable activity monitor to quantify volume and intensity of overall physical activity and selected habitual activities over 24 hours. Ventilatory threshold was assessed during an incremental cycling test. Torque, muscle fiber conduction velocity and agonist-antagonist coactivation were measured during maximal voluntary contraction of knee extensors and flexors. Ground reaction forces were measured during sit-to-stand and counter-movement jump. K-means cluster analysis was used to classify the participants’ physical activity levels based on parameters of volume and intensity. Two clusters of physical activity volume (i.e., high and low volume) and three clusters of physical activity intensity (i.e. high, medium and low intensity) were identified in all participants. Cardio-respiratory fitness was associated with volume of overall physical activity as well as lying, sitting, standing, walking and stair climbing. On the other hand, neuromuscular function and functional abilities showed a significant association with intensity of overall physical activity as well as postural transition, walking and stair climbing. As a practical application, the relative role played by volume and intensity of overall physical activity and selected habitual activities should be taken into account in the design of preventative training interventions to preserve mobility as individuals grow older.
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