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FitzGerald, S J1; Macera, C A FACSM1; Hootman, J M1; Barlow, C E1; Jackson, A W FACSM1; Blair, S N FACSM1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2003 - Volume 35 - Issue 5 - p S73
B-13J Free Communication/Poster Epidemiology of Exercise and Disease

1The Cooper Institute, Dallas, TX and University of North Texas, Denton, TX

It has been established that physical activity (PA) may prevent or delay the onset of functional limitations. However, little is known about the effect of flexibility activity, in addition to physical activity, on the incidence of functional limitations.

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To examine the association between PA, flexibility activity (stretching, calisthenics, or exercise class [FLX]), and the onset of functional limitations.

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1971 men, ages 40 – 81 completed at least 1 preventive medical examination between 1987 and 1989, which included a questionnaire on PA and FLX, and returned mail-back surveys in 1990 and either 1995 or 1999. PA, assessed at the time of the medical exam, was categorized as inactive (INA), < 150 min of PA (low PA), and ≥150 minutes of PA (recommended PA; RPA). Based on these PA categories and participation (yes/no) in FLX, 5 physical activity categories were created: 1) INA (n = 391), 2) low PA (n = 443), 3) low PA + FLX (n = 48), 4) RPA (n = 916), and 5) RPA+FLX (n = 173). Functional limitations were not assessed during the baseline exam visit; therefore, participants were excluded (24% of 1990 survey respondents) if they reported any type of functional limitation on the 1990 survey. Onset of functional limitations was determined from follow-up surveys administered in 1995 or 1999.

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During the follow-up period, 35% of men reported a functional limitation. A multiple logistic regression model controlling for baseline values of age, body mass index, health status, smoking status, follow-up time, and survey response was constructed. Compared with the INA group, the odds of developing a functional limitation were low PA = 1.13 (95% CI 0.82–1.55), low PA+FLX = 0.42 (95% CI 0.21–0.86), RPA = 0.74 (95% CI 0.56–0.98), and RPA+FLX = 0.27 (95% CI 0.17–0.44).

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These results suggest that the addition of FLX, such as stretching, calisthenic, or exercise class, to a PA program may help prevent or delay the onset of functional limitations in men. Supported by NIH grant AG06945.

©2003The American College of Sports Medicine