Physical activity, body composition and healthy ageing

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23 Citations (Scopus)


To apprehend the interest of a lifestyle adapted in order to minimize the effects of ageing.

Current knowledge
During the last century life expectancy increased rapidly in Europe as well in other affluent societies in the world. Combined with the decline in birth rates, Europe faces an increasingly ageing population. Since ageing is associated with an increasing risk for chronic diseases, disability and cognitive decline, a sharp rise in the need for medical and social services and associated costs is to be expected. Physical activity and nutrition are both modifiable risk factors for many chronic diseases and evidence accumulates suggesting that an active lifestyle and a proper diet can also prevent the functional limitations associated with advancing age. However, data from surveys show that physical activity levels decline with ageing. In Europe approximately 80% of the persons 65 years and older do not engage in strenuous physical activity and 55% of them report not to engage in moderate activity. If the declined level of physical activity is not matched with a reduced energy intake, weight gain, particularly in the trunk is expected to occur. Abdominal obesity, also in the elderly is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus type 2 and cancer morbidity. On the other hand, if reduced physical activity is matched with a reduced food intake, the intake of micronutrients may become inadequate and will endanger the nutritional status of the elderly. Apart from inadequate intake also drug use and co-morbidity may lead to multiple micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore particularly for the elderly population a proper balanced diet is essential.

Public health programs should focus on the adoption of a healthy lifestyle in elderly people. There is a need for systematically planned approaches addressing both food consumption patterns and physical activity. The program should be tailored to the elderly population and make use of suitable and realistic strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-213
JournalScience & Sports
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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