Unmet Physical Activity Need in Old Age

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVES To examine which individual and environmental factors correlate with unmet physical activity need in old age and predict development of unmet physical activity need (the feeling that one's level of physical activity is inadequate and thus distinct from the recommended amount of physical activity) over a 2-year follow-up. DESIGN Observational prospective cohort study and cross-sectional analyses. SETTING Community and research center. PARTICIPANTS A total of 643 community-living ambulatory people aged 75 to 81 took part in face-to-face interviews and examinations at baseline and 314 at the 2-year follow-up. MEASUREMENTS Unmet physical activity need and its potential individual and environmental correlates were assessed at baseline. Development of unmet physical activity need was assessed over the 2-year follow-up period. RESULTS At baseline, all participants were able to walk at least 500 m outdoors, but 14% perceived unmet physical activity need. Unmet physical activity need was more prevalent in those with musculoskeletal diseases, depressive symptoms, and mobility limitations. Hills in the nearby environment, lack of resting places, and dangerous crossroads correlated with unmet physical activity need at baseline; the association was especially strong in those with walking difficulties. Significant baseline predictors for incident unmet physical activity need (15%) included fear of moving outdoors, hills in the nearby environment, and noisy traffic. CONCLUSION Unmet physical activity need is common in ambulatory community-living older people who have health and mobility problems and report negative environmental features in their neighborhood. Solutions to overcome barriers to physical activity need to be developed to promote equal opportunities for physical activity participation.


  • Merja Rantakokko
  • Susanne Iwarsson
  • Mirja Hirvensalo
  • Raija Leinonen
  • Eino Heikkinen
  • Taina Rantanen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geriatrics


  • aging, environment, unmet need, physical activity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-712
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Division of Occupational Therapy (Closed 2012) (013025000)