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BACKGROUND: Reduced physical performance and physical activity have serious health consequences, but adult determinants do not fully explain variation in older people. OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to investigate the relationship between early growth, physical performance and physical activity in older people. METHODS: We studied 349 men and 280 women born 1931-1939 with known birth weight and weight at 1 year who were taking part in the Hertfordshire Cohort Study, UK. Physical performance was measured (3-m walk, chair rises and standing balance) and physical activity was assessed by questionnaire and converted to estimated energy expenditure. RESULTS: Poor balance was associated with lower birth weight (odds ratio [OR] for poor balance per standard deviation [SD] increase in birth weight = 0.68, p=0.01) and weight at 1 year (OR for poor balance per SD increase in weight at 1 year=0.67, p=0.03) after adjustment for age and current size in men, but not in women. There were no significant positive relationships between early size and growth and the other measures of physical performance or physical activity in men or women. CONCLUSION: Current lifestyle factors, particularly those affecting adult weight, may be more important than developmental influences on most measures of physical performance and physical activity in older people.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





186 - 193


Activities of Daily Living, Aged, Aging, Birth Weight, Body Weight, Child Development, Cohort Studies, Energy Metabolism, Female, Growth and Development, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Life Style, Male, Odds Ratio, Physical Fitness, Postural Balance, Psychomotor Performance, Sex Characteristics, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom