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OBJECTIVE: To study the association between physical activity and mortality in older men and women.

DESIGN: A community-based cohort study: the Jerusalem 70-Year-Olds Longitudinal Study.

PARTICIPANTS: A systematically selected and representative sample of all residents of the western part of Jerusalem born in 1920-1921: 456 subjects, 25% of the total population.

MEASUREMENTS: An extensive social and medical profile was developed by extensive interview and physical and ancillary examination. Medical diagnoses were established and subjects reported their level of regular physical activity.

RESULTS: Unadjusted mortality at 6-year follow-up was significantly greater for subjects reporting no regular exercise than for those walking as little as 4 hours weekly (23.4% vs 9.9%, odds ratio (OR) = 2.77; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.64-4.69). The significance of these benefits was demonstrated for males as well as for females (30.28% vs 12.14%, P < .001, 16.19% vs 6.86%, P = .036, respectively). Logistic regression analysis demonstrated the survival advantage to be independent of gender, smoking, subjective economic hardship, or preexisting medical conditions (hypertension; diabetes; coronary artery, cerebrovascular, renal, and respiratory diseases; anemia; and malignancy). Increased regularity of activity correlated with declining mortality. The odds ratios for mortality compared to the sedentary group were 0.73 (CI, 0.33-1.62) for those doing sports activity at least twice weekly, 0.41 (CI, 0.19-0.91) for those walking at least 4 hours weekly, 0.14 (CI, 0.04-0.50) for those exercising daily, and 0.40 (CI, 0.22-0.72) for all levels of physical activity combined.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that regular physical activity confers increased survival in the aged. It is proposed that older people be encouraged to engage in regular, moderate physical activity.

(C) 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.