Is there a U-shaped association between physical activity and falling in older persons?

G. M E E Peeters, N. M. Van Schoor, S. M F Pluijm, D. J H Deeg, P. Lips

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Summary: This study tests whether the relationship between physical activity and (recurrent) falling is U-shaped. Among 1,337 community-dwelling older persons, no evidence for a nonlinear association was found. If all older persons increase their physical activity level with 100 units, 4% may be prevented to become recurrent fallers. Introduction: Previous studies suggest a U-shaped relationship between physical activity and falling. This study tests this hypothesis and examines whether this relationship is modified by level of physical functioning. Methods: Community-dwelling persons (65+) from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) were prospectively followed on falls for 3 years after baseline assessment in 1995/1996 (n=1,337). Outcome measures were time to first fall and time to recurrent falling. The LASA Physical Activity Questionnaire was used to calculate physical activity in minutes per day weighted for intensity (range 0-2000). Physical functioning was measured with physical performance tests and self reported functional limitations. Confounders were age, sex, body mass index, chronic diseases, psychotropic medication, cognitive functioning, depressive symptoms, and fear of falling. Results: No evidence for a nonlinear association was found (p for physical activity 2 > 0.20). No significant association was found between physical activity and time to first fall. An increase in physical activity of 100 units led to a 4% decrease in risk of recurrent falling (adjusted hazard ratio 0.96, 95% confidence interval 0.92, 0.99). No interactions with physical performance or functional limitations were found (p>0.50). Conclusions: The hypothesized U-shaped relationship between physical activity and falling could not be confirmed. At higher levels of physical activity, the risk of recurrent falling decreased, while no association was found with fall risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1189-1195
Number of pages7
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Accidental falls
  • Aged
  • Functional limitations
  • Physical activity
  • Physical performance

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