Costa Rica has one of the highest life expectancies in America, even higher than the United States. Studies addressing health and fitness in Latin American urban and rural older adults are scarce.
PURPOSE: The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that older adults from rural areas present fewer negative health conditions and higher fitness than older adults from urban zones.
METHODS: 298 participants aged 60 to 85 (Urban n =188, Rural n = 110) completed a 29-item chronic diseases questionnaire and performed the Senior Fitness Test: a) 6-min walking test (6-MWT), b) 30-s Chair to-Stand Test, c) 30-s Arm Curl Test, d) timed up- and go test (TUG), balance time, and handgrip strength (HGS). Categorical variables were analyzed with non-parametric Chi2 and continuous variables with 2 x2 ANOVA (residency zone x gender).
RESULTS: Urban women reported more chest pain (χ2 = 6.05, p = 0.014), more pacemakers (χ2 = 4.70, p = 0.030), diabetes (χ2 = 3.98, p = 0.046), and osteoarthritis (χ2 = 5.08, p = 0.024) than rural women. Urban men reported more chronic low back pain (χ2 = 5.65, p = 0.017) and depression (χ2 = 3.90, p = 0.048) than rural men. A higher diastolic blood pressure was observed in urban compared to rural older adults (Urban = 76.2 ± 0.9 mmHg kg vs. Rural = 70.2 ± 1.3 mmHg; p ≤ 0.001). Urban older adults showed better balance time than rural older adults (Urban = 22.8 ± 0.8 s vs. Rural = 18.4 ± 1.2 s; p = 0.003). Performance was similar between urban and rural older adults on the 6-MWT, 30-s Chair to-Stand, 30-s Arm Curl, TUG, and HGS tests (p > 0.05).
CONCLUSION: In spite of having similar physical fitness performance, Costa Rican urban men and women showed an overall negative health profile compared to rural older adults. Balance was the only functional variable positively observed in urban older adults.