Objective: Poor physical function performance is associated with risks for disability in late life; however, determinants of physical function are not well characterized in middle-aged women. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to examine the contributions of body composition, physical activity, muscle capacity, and muscle quality to physical function performance.
Methods: Postmenopausal women (N = 64; mean [SD] age, 58.6 [3.6] y) were assessed for body composition via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, for physical activity via accelerometer (steps per day), and for physical function via Timed Up and Go, 30-second chair stand, and 6-minute walk. Leg strength was assessed using isokinetic dynamometry at 60° second−1. Leg power was assessed with the Nottingham Leg Extensor Power Rig. Muscle quality was calculated as (1) the ratio of leg strength at 60° second−1 to upper leg lean mass and (2) the ratio of leg power to total lower body lean mass.
Results: Regression analyses revealed the following: (1) age and muscle quality calculated with leg power are independently related to Timed Up and Go, explaining 12% and 11% of the variance, respectively (P < 0.05); (2) age and muscle quality calculated with leg strength are independently related to 30-second chair stand, explaining 12% and 10% of the variance, respectively (P < 0.05); and (3) number of medical conditions, muscle quality calculated with leg strength, steps per day, and adiposity are independent predictors of 6-minute walk, collectively explaining 51% of the variance.
Conclusions: In postmenopausal women, a more optimal body composition (including lower adiposity and higher lean mass) and higher levels of physical activity are associated with better physical function performance at midlife.