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Background: High impact physical activity (PA) is thought to improve skeletal health, but its relation to other health outcomes are unclear. We investigated associations between PA impact magnitude and body mass index (BMI) in older adults. Methods: Data were taken from the Cohort for Skeletal Health in Bristol and Avon (COSHIBA), Hertfordshire Cohort Study, and MRC National Survey of Health and Development. Vertical acceleration peaks from 7-day hip-worn accelerometer recordings were used to classify PA as low (0.5 < g < 1.0g), medium (1 < g < 1.5g), or higher (≥1.5g) impact. Cohort-specific associations of low, medium, and higher impact PA with BMI were examined using linear regressions and estimates combined using random-effects meta-analysis. Results: A total of 1182 participants (mean age = 72.7 years, 68% female) were included. Low, medium, and higher impact PA were inversely related to BMI in initial models. After adjustment for confounders and other impacts, low, but not medium or higher, impacts were inversely related to BMI (-0.31, p < .001: overall combined standard deviation change in BMI per doubling in the number of low impacts). In adjusted analyses of body composition measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry in COSHIBA, low, but not medium or higher, impacts were inversely related to total body fat mass (-0.19, p < .001) and android:gynoid fat mass ratio (-0.16, p = .01), whereas high impact PA was weakly and positively associated with lean mass (0.05, p = .06). Conclusions: Greater exposure to PA producing low magnitude vertical impacts was associated with lower BMI and fat mass at older age. Low impact PA may help reduce obesity risk in older adults.

Original publication




Journal article


J gerontol a biol sci med sci

Publication Date





643 - 651


Absorptiometry, Photon, Accelerometry, Aged, Body Composition, Body Mass Index, Cohort Studies, Female, Humans, Motor Activity, Postmenopause, Surveys and Questionnaires