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Physical activity and successful aging
10th International EGREPA Conference

European Group for Research into Elderly and Physical Activity

14.09. - 16.09.2006 in Köln

Physical activity behavior of adults aged 50 to 80+ in Switzerland

Meeting Abstract

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  • corresponding author K. Meyer - Swiss Health Observatory & University of Bern, Switzerland

Physical activity and successful aging. Xth International EGREPA Conference. Cologne, 14.-16.09.2006. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2006. Doc06pasa020

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: December 18, 2006

© 2006 Meyer.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.




Physical activity (PA) is considered as a main factor for healthy life expectancy. Switzerland has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, with a small gap of 6 years between healthy life expectancy and life expectancy. Nonetheless, little is known about the PA pattern in the Swiss population aged 50 years and older. This study explores the prevalence of guideline-compliant PA behavior and association to socio-demographic, health-related and environmental variables.


Cross-sectional data of the Swiss Health Survey 2002 were used in a representative Swiss population segment aged 50+ (N=8405; 45% male; 55% female) living in private residences. For analysis, the sample was divided into three age groups: 50-65 (N=4348), 65-79 (N=3257) and 80+ (N=800). Three categories of PA were created with respect to US and Swiss guidelines: 'Moderate sports/exercise'; 'vigorous sports/exercise', and 'habitual PA'. Sedentary lifestyle was a fourth category.


In the total sample the prevalence of guideline-compliant PA was: 9.1% moderate sports/exercise; 18.2% vigorous sports/exercise; 45% habitual PA. Almost 50% of the age groups 65-70 and 80+ were involved in habitual PA. Compared to primary education level, a tertiary education was associated with moderate sports/exercise (OR 1.74; 1.27-2.37) but did not with habitual PA. Compared to living in urban environments, living rural had no differentiating effect on moderate and/or vigorous sports/exercise but was independently associated to both sedentary lifestyle (OR 1.26; 1.12-1.41) and little involvement in habitual PA (OR 0.75; 0.68-0.84). The probability to follow guideline-compliant habitual PA was lower in people with self-reported poor health than in those with self-reported good health (OR 0.69; 0.53-0.89), regardless of wether a chronic health problem was present or not.


Habitual PA seems to have the greatest potential for increasing overall guideline-compliant activity level in the population aged 50 and older. A behavioral/cognitive and political/environmental approch to improving PA is suggested.