Background and aims: Relationships have already been shown between leisure-time physical activity, obesity and body composition in young adults. However, this association needs to be confirmed in the elderly. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between leisure-time physical activity, obesity, preservation of muscle mass and disability in elderly men. Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of a sample of 85 community-dwelling men, 68 to 79 years of age. Body mass index (BMI) was used to quantify obesity. Body composition was evaluated using Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. Disability was measured using a modified version of the Activities of Daily Living scale. Leisure-time physical activity was evaluated by a validated self-administered questionnaire. Results: A negative relation between obesity and weekly walking was observed. Walking less than 30 minutes per day was associated with a 2.7 greater probability of being obese (95% CI 1.1-6.7). High-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or gardening, was inversely correlated with body fat (R = -0.296, p < 0.01) and directly correlated with appendicular skeletal mass (R = 0.238, p < 0.05). The prevalence of disability was the highest (58%) among overweight elderly subjects at the lowest tertile of exercise. Multiple logistic regression selected BMI as a positive predictor and high-intensity exercise as a negative predictor of disability. Conclusions: Our study shows that, in elderly men, leisure-time physical activity is inversely associated with body fat, BMI, and reported disability, but positively associated with appendicular fat-free mass. The highest prevalence of reported disability was observed in sedentary subjects with BMI higher than 25 kg/m2.
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