Purpose: Understanding variations in physical activity patterns is important for planning health interventions. This study describes age-related change in physical activity in 903 rural Hispanic and non-Hispanic white (NHW) adults age 55–80.
Methods: The Physical Activity History assessed 13 categories of productive and recreational activity during the past year with up to four assessments per participant from 1987 to 1998.
Results: The most common activities were walking and home maintenance/gardening. Productive and recreational physical activity levels were lower in women than men (P < 0.0001), and within each gender group Hispanics had lower levels of both activity types than NHW (P values less than 0.05). In men, productive activity steadily declined with age in NHW and Hispanics. Recreational activity increased slightly until age 63, then decreased after age 70. In women, productive activity initially stayed stable then decreased in NHW after age 63, and in Hispanics it decreased at younger ages before stabilizing after age 70. Recreational activity levels decreased steadily with age in all women, with a steeper rate of decline in NHW than Hispanics. In both ethnic groups, activity levels were lower in diabetics than nondiabetics, except for recreational activity in women where levels did not differ by diabetes status.
Conclusions: The most common activities were similar to other studies of older adults, both recreational and productive activities contributed to total activity, and physical activity decreased in all gender–ethnic subgroups with age. Hispanic women reported the lowest activity levels. Interventions to maintain or increase recreational activity may need to target women at an earlier age than men.