Regular physical activity in old age : effect on coronary heart disease risk factors and well-being

A.J. Schuit

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


<br/> <p><em><strong>Background.</strong></em> Regular physical activity is considered an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. It may improve fitness, physical competence and may lower the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). However, until now, data on the effects of regular exercise on CHD risk factors in elderly are limited, and there is a particular lack of data about the training effects on recently indicated risk factors, such as fibrinolytic and coagulation factors, and factors involved in the autonomic regulation of the heart.<p><em><strong>Methods</strong> .</em> We have conducted a randomised, controlled intervention study, which addressed the effect of a 6 months training programme on 'classical' and 'new' CHD risk factors and well-being in 229 (intervention: 143 and control:86) apparently healthy, free- living elderly men and women (60-80 years).<p><em><strong>Results</strong> .</em> Physical fitness (maximal exercise capacity) improved significantly in subjects of the intervention group (mean increase 14.1 Watt , 95%Cl: 10.1-18.1, +9%), compared to the controls. Among the classical CHD risk factors, only the reduction in serum triglyceride concentration in women was significant (-0.11 mmol/L, 95%Cl: -0.22-0.0, -7%). Blood pressure, high- and low density lipoprotein and total serum cholesterol concentration changed in a favourable direction, but not significantly from the control group. No effect of training on body weight and fasting insulin concentration was found. Among the new risk factors, the concentration of tissue type plasminogen activator (t-PA), a fibrinolytic factor, was significantly increased (+0.07 IU/mL, 95%Cl: 0.0-0.14,+11%) in subjects of the intervention group, while plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1, inhibitor of fibrinolysis) was reduced, but not significantly different from the controls. These changes reflect an increase in fibrinolytic activity. However, fibrinogen concentration increased (+0.18 g/L 95%Cl 0.04-0.32,+6%). In addition, heart rate variability was increased and heart-rate- adjusted-QT interval was reduced in subjects of the intervention group (P&lt;0.05). Both changes probably represent increase in parasympathetic activity and a more favourable autonomic regulation of the heart. Finally, physical self-efficacy was significantly improved in the subjects of the intervention group. Symptoms of depression were reduced, but not significantly different from the controls.<p><em><strong>Conclusion</strong> .</em> Regular physical activity beneficially affected CHD risk factors, physical fitness and self-efficacy, which are important determinants of the quality of life and longevity in elderly. The magnitude of the benefits on CHD incidence remain unclear, since there is little information on the predictive value of the new risk factors in elderly. However, since elderly, in general, have advanced atherosclerosis and autonomic dysbalance, the improvements of these factors may be of particular importance in this age- group. In conclusion, our observations underline the importance of a public health policy aiming at stimulating regular physical activity in elderly people
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Kok, Frans, Promotor
  • Schouten, E.G., Promotor, External person
Award date16 Jun 1997
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789054857112
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • health care
  • medical services
  • social services
  • therapy
  • sport
  • food hygiene
  • nutritional state
  • consumption patterns
  • vascular diseases
  • blood disorders
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • cardiovascular disorders
  • elderly
  • old age
  • netherlands

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