Association of physical activity on performance, quality of life and telomere length in old age

Hanna Jantunen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


As people live longer, enabling older people to live independently and successfully perform everyday activities has become an important issue. In old age, maintaining adequate level of physical functioning is one of the primary determinants of quality of life. The decline in cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal function with age is likely to be mediated in part through a reduction in physical activity. By engaging in regular exercise, it is possible to counteract several age-related changes. The aim of this thesis was to explore the association between physical activity on healthy active aging by applying measures of physical performance, health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and leucocyte telomere length (LTL) in older age. The subjects in this study belong to the clinical study cohort (n=2003) of the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (HBCS). Studies I and II include 695 individuals who attended a clinical examination between the years 2011 and 2013. Study III includes 1036 individuals and study IV 1014 individuals who took part in both clinical examinations in 2001-2004 and 2011-2013. The volume of physical activity was measured both with activity monitors (in study I and II) and through questionnaires (study III and IV). Physical performance was assessed with a Senior Fitness Test, HRQoL with Short Form-36 (SF-36) questionnaire and relative LTL was measured with a quantitative PCR. In this aging study cohort objectively measured total daily physical activity was associated with physical performance tested with the Senior Fitness Test (SFT). Both light physical activity and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were positively associated with the overall SFT score. When the study group was divided by weight at birth, the association between physical activity and physical performance was most obvious among men with low birth weight. Increasing leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) over a 10-year follow-up was positively associated with better physical component of HRQoL in both men and women. In women, there were also a significant association between positive change in LTPA with change in the mental component of HRQoL and with less depressive symptoms. At baseline, volume of LTPA was not associated with LTL in men or in women. But in women, during the 10-year follow-up a higher volume of LTPA at baseline was associated with greater shortening of LTL. Our findings support the importance of regular physical activity among older adults because of its positive influence on physical performance and HRQoL to promote physical independence and health maintenance and compress morbidity. According to our findings influences during prenatal life might have long-term effects on health. Physical activity may have a sex-specific role in regulation of telomere length in the aging process.
Original languageEnglish
  • Eriksson, Johan, Supervisor
  • Wasenius, Niko, Supervisor
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-5978-6
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-5979-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Bibliographical note

M1 - 151 s. + liitteet

Fields of Science

  • Telomere
  • Telomere Shortening
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Quality of Life
  • Physical Functional Performance
  • Exercise
  • Depression
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Leisure Activities
  • Leukocytes
  • Birth Weight
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Sex Factors
  • Telomerase
  • Body Mass Index
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • 3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine
  • 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health

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