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Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine

Open Access

Evaluation of anthropometric parameters and physical fitness in elderly Japanese

  • Nobuyuki Miyatake1Email author,
  • Motohiko Miyachi2,
  • Izumi Tabata3 and
  • Takeyuki Numata4
Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine201117:220

https://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-011-0220-3

Received: 1 April 2011

Accepted: 27 April 2011

Published: 19 May 2011

Abstract

Objectives

We evaluated anthropometric parameters and physical fitness in elderly Japanese.

Methods

A total of 2,106 elderly Japanese (749 men and 1,357 women), aged 60–79 years, were enrolled in a cross-sectional investigation study. Anthropometric parameters and physical fitness, i.e., muscle strength and flexibility, were measured. Of the 2,106 subjects, 569 subjects (302 men and 267 women) were further evaluated for aerobic exercise level, using the ventilatory threshold (VT).

Results

Muscle strength in subjects in their 70s was significantly lower than that in subjects in their 60s in both sexes. Two hundred and twenty-nine men (30.6%) and 540 women (39.8%) were taking no medications. In men, anthropometric parameters were significantly lower and muscle strength, flexibility, and work rate at VT were significantly higher in subjects without medications than these values in subjects with medications. In women, body weight, body mass index (BMI), and abdominal circumference were significantly lower, and muscle strength was significantly higher in subjects without medications than these values in subjects with medications.

Conclusion

This mean value may provide a useful database for evaluating anthropometric parameters and physical fitness in elderly Japanese subjects.

Keywords

Elderly JapaneseAnthropometric parametersMuscle strengthVentilatory threshold (VT)

Introduction

The proportion of elderly people (over the age of 65 years) in Japan has increased and this has become a public health challenge in Japan. For example, in Japan, 28,216,000 people (22.1% of the population) are reported to be over the age of 65 [1].

It has been shown that obese subjects have a high mortality rate [2] and have associated atherogenic risk factors, such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and dyslipidemia [3, 4]. In addition, Sandvik et al. reported that physical fitness was a graded, independent, long-term predictor of mortality from cardiovascular causes in healthy, middle-aged men [5]. Also, Metter et al. [6] reported that lower and declining muscle strength was associated with increased mortality, independent of physical activity and muscle mass. In order to provide proper management and control of anthropometric parameters and physical fitness in elderly Japanese, precise assessments of these parameters are necessary. However, the evaluation of anthropometric parameters and physical fitness still remains to be investigated in elderly Japanese who are not taking medications.

Therefore, we evaluated anthropometric parameters and physical fitness in elderly Japanese and compared these parameters in subjects with and without medications.

Subjects and methods

Subjects

We used data for all 2,106 elderly subjects (749 men and 1,357 women), aged 60–79 years, among 16,383 subjects in a cross-sectional investigation study. All subjects met the following criteria: (1) they had been wanting to change their lifestyle i.e., diet and exercise habits, and had received an annual health checkup between June 1997 and December 2009 at Okayama Southern Institute of Health; (2) their anthropometric, muscle strength, and flexibility measurements had been taken as part of their annual health checkups; and (3) they provided written informed consent (Table 1).
Table 1

Clinical profiles of subjects enrolled in the first analysis

 

Men (n = 749)

Women (n = 1,357)

Mean ± SD

Minimum

Maximum

Mean ± SD

Minimum

Maximum

Age (years)

65.6 ± 4.6

60

79

64.9 ± 4.2

60

79

Height (cm)

164.4 ± 5.5

145.3

180.2

151.9 ± 5.0

136.2

167.0

Body weight (kg)

65.9 ± 9.3

40.1

112.2

55.3 ± 7.9

33.4

97.3

Body mass index (kg/m2)

24.3 ± 3.0

16.2

40.9

24.0 ± 3.2

15.4

41.9

Abdominal circumference (cm)

86.1 ± 9.2

61.6

127.0

78.8 ± 9.3

54.7

121.6

Hip circumference (cm)

91.9 ± 5.5

77.8

122.7

90.3 ± 5.4

69.0

120.5

Right grip strength (kg)

36.4 ± 7.0

8.7

60.0

22.3 ± 4.6

4.9

39.9

Left grip strength (kg)

35.0 ± 6.9

5.0

55.7

21.4 ± 4.5

4.3

47.4

Leg strength (kg)

51.0 ± 13.4

11.7

97.0

35.3 ± 8.6

10.7

69.7

Leg strength per body weight

0.78 ± 0.19

0.20

1.50

0.65 ± 0.17

0.15

1.26

Flexibility (cm)

0.6 ± 10.3

−34.0

28.3

11.2 ± 8.1

−22.0

28.4

Number of subjects without medications (%)

229 (30.6)

540 (39.8)

In a second analysis, among the 2,106 subjects, we further examined the data on 569 subjects (302 men and 267 women) who undertook measurements of aerobic exercise level; we also examined anthropometric, muscle strength, and flexibility measurements in these second-analysis subjects (Table 2).
Table 2

Clinical profiles of subjects enrolled in the second analysis

 

Men (n = 302)

Women (n = 267)

Mean ± SD

Minimum

Maximum

Mean ± SD

Minimum

Maximum

Age (years)

65.3 ± 4.3

60

79

64.7 ± 4.0

60

77

Height (cm)

164.6 ± 5.1

149.1

178.3

152.4 ± 4.2

142.2

164.2

Body weight (kg)

68.6 ± 9.7

47.6

112.2

59.3 ± 8.8

37.6

97.3

Body mass index (kg/m2)

25.3 ± 3.1

18.9

40.9

25.5 ± 3.7

16.7

41.9

Abdominal circumference (cm)

88.8 ± 9.8

62.5

127.0

83.4 ± 10.6

60.0

121.6

Hip circumference (cm)

93.2 ± 6.0

79.7

122.7

92.4 ± 6.4

72.5

120.5

Right grip strength (kg)

36.3 ± 6.8

13.4

60.0

22.1 ± 4.7

6.6

34.9

Left grip strength (kg)

35.1 ± 6.4

15.6

54.1

21.2 ± 4.5

6.9

33.0

Leg strength (kg)

51.0 ± 13.1

19.0

92.0

35.2 ± 9.0

11.0

69.7

Leg strength per body weight

0.75 ± 0.19

0.26

1.17

0.60 ± 0.15

0.16

1.08

Flexibility (cm)

−0.9 ± 10.1

−34.0

23.7

9.7 ± 8.3

−22.0

26.4

Oxygen uptake at VT (ml/kg/min)

12.5 ± 2.0

5.9

21.6

11.9 ± 1.7

7.6

16.8

Work rate at VT (watt)

53.6 ± 13.8

5.0

100.0

38.7 ± 10.5

5.0

70.0

Heart rate at VT (beats/min)

95.7 ± 12.9

64.0

146.0

99.0 ± 12.8

67.0

137.0

Number of subjects without medications (%)

33 (10.9)

55 (20.6)

VT ventilatory threshold

The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Okayama Health Foundation.

Athropometric measurements

The anthropometric parameters were evaluated by using the following parameters: height, body weight, body mass index (BMI), abdominal circumference, and hip circumference. BMI was calculated as weight/[height]2 (kg/m2). The abdominal circumference was measured at the umbilical level and the hip was measured at the widest circumference over the trochanter in standing subjects after normal expiration [7].

Muscle strength

To assess muscle strength, grip and leg strength were measured. Grip strength was measured using the THP-10 (SAKAI, Tokyo, Japan) device, while leg strength was measured with a dynamometer (COMBIT CB-1; MINATO Co., Osaka, Japan). Isometric leg strength was measured as follows: the subject sat in a chair, grasping the armrest in order to fix the body position. The dynamometer was then attached to the subject’s ankle joint with a strap. Next, the subject extended the leg to 60° [8]. To standardize the influence of the total body weight, we calculated the muscle strength (kg) per body weight (kg) [9].

Flexibility

Flexibility was measured as follows in all the participants. Sit-and-reach measurements were obtained to assess the overall flexibility in forward flexion, with the measurements recorded as the distance (in cm) between the fingertips and toes. The subject’s knees were kept straight throughout the test and ankles were maintained at 90° by having the soles of the feet pressed against a board perpendicular to the sitting surface [10].

Oxygen uptake at ventilatory threshold (VT)

A graded ergometer exercise protocol [11] had been carried out at the subjects’ checkups. After breakfast (2 h), resting ECG was recorded and blood pressure was measured. All subjects were then given a graded exercise after 3 min of pedaling on an unloaded bicycle ergometer (Excalibur V2.0; Lode, Groningen, The Netherlands). The profile of incremental workloads was automatically defined by the methods of Jones et al. [11], in which the workloads reach the predicted maximum rate of oxygen consumption (\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{\text{2max}}\)) in 10 min. A pedaling cycle of 60 rpm was maintained. Loading was terminated when the appearance of symptoms forced the subject to stop. During the test, ECG was monitored continuously, together with recording of the heart rate. Expired gas was collected, and rates of oxygen consumption (\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2}\)) and carbon dioxide production (\(\dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{2}\)) were measured breath-by-breath using a cardiopulmonary gas exchange system (Oxycon Alpha; Mijnhrdt, The Netherlands). The VT was determined by the standards of Wasserman et al. [12] and Davis et al. [13], and the V-slope method of Beaver et al. [14] from \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2}\), \(\dot{V}{\text{CO}}_{2}\), and minute ventilation (VE).

Medications

The data on medications were obtained at interviews conducted by well-trained staff using a structured method. The subjects were asked if they were currently taking medications, i.e., those for diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and/or orthopedic diseases. When the answer was “yes”, they were classified as subjects with medications. When the answer was “no”, they were classified as subjects without medications.

Statistical analysis

Data are expressed as means ± standard deviation (SD) values. There were sufficient numbers of subjects, except for subjects in their 70s without medications in the second analysis. A comparison of parameters between subjects in their 60s and those in their 70s, between subjects with and without medications, and between subjects in their 60s and those in their 70s without medications was made using an unpaired t-test: p < 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.

Results

Clinical profiles of the subjects in the first and second analyses are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. Two hundred and twenty-nine men (30.6%) and 540 women (39.8%) in the first analysis and 33 men (10.9%) and 55 women (20.6%) in the second analysis were not taking medications.

We compared the clinical parameters between subjects in their 60s and those in their 70s (Table 3). In men, height, body weight, BMI, and hip circumference in those in their 60s were significantly higher than the values in men in their 70s. However, abdominal circumference in men in their 60s was similar to that in men in their 70s. Muscle strength, flexibility, oxygen uptake at VT, work rate at VT, and heart rate at VT in men in their 60s were higher than the values in men in their 70s. In women, height was significantly greater, and BMI and abdominal circumference were significantly lower in those in their 60s than the values in women in their 70s. Muscle strength, oxygen uptake at VT, and work rate at VT in those in their 60s were significantly higher than the values in women in their 70s.
Table 3

Changes in anthropometric and physical fitness parameters in the first and second analyses in all subjects

 

Men

Women

60–69

70–79

p

60–69

70–79

p

First analysis

 Number of subjects

604

145

 

1,158

199

 

 Height (cm)

164.8 ± 5.3

162.7 ± 5.9

<0.0001

152.2 ± 4.9

149.9 ± 4.9

<0.0001

 Body weight (kg)

66.5 ± 9.0

63.3 ± 9.9

0.0002

55.3 ± 7.8

54.8 ± 7.9

0.3793

 Body mass index (kg/m2)

24.5 ± 3.0

23.9 ± 3.0

0.0313

23.9 ± 3.2

24.4 ± 3.3

0.0373

 Abdominal circumference (cm)

86.2 ± 9.1

85.6 ± 9.5

0.4998

78.3 ± 9.1

81.9 ± 10.2

<0.0001

 Hip circumference (cm)

92.2 ± 5.4

90.7 ± 5.6

0.0030

90.3 ± 5.4

90.0 ± 5.4

0.5006

 Right grip strength (kg)

37.3 ± 6.8

32.6 ± 6.9

<0.0001

22.5 ± 4.5

20.9 ± 4.4

<0.0001

 Left grip strength (kg)

36.0 ± 6.6

30.8 ± 6.5

<0.0001

21.6 ± 4.4

20.0 ± 4.3

<0.0001

 Leg strength (kg)

53.2 ± 12.9

41.9 ± 11.3

<0.0001

35.9 ± 8.5

31.8 ± 8.7

<0.0001

 Leg strength per body weight   

0.81 ± 0.19

0.67 ± 0.19

<0.0001

0.66 ± 0.16

0.59 ± 0.17

<0.0001

 Flexibility (cm)

1.0 ± 9.9

−1.1 ± 11.3

0.0278

11.4 ± 8.0

10.7 ± 8.4

0.3205

Second analysis

 Number of subjects

255

47

 

228

39

 

 Oxygen uptake at VT (ml/kg/min)

12.7 ± 1.9

11.5 ± 1.7

<0.0001

12.0 ± 1.7

11.1 ± 1.5

0.0024

 Work rate at VT (watt)

56.0 ± 12.6

40.4 ± 12.5

<0.0001

40.2 ± 10.2

29.7 ± 8.8

<0.0001

 Heart rate at VT (beats/min)

96.6 ± 12.5

91.2 ± 14.0

0.0080

99.3 ± 12.8

96.9 ± 12.7

0.2747

Values are means ± SD. p values in boldface are significant

VT ventilatory threshold

We further analyzed clinical parameters, comparing them between subjects with and without medications (Table 4). There were significant differences in anthropometric parameters (except for height), muscle strength, flexibility, and work rate at VT between men with and without medications. In women, there were also significant differences in body weight, BMI, abdominal circumference, and muscle strength between the two groups.
Table 4

Comparison of anthropometric and physical fitness parameters between subjects with and without medications as classified by age groups

 

Men

Women

Medication (−)

Medication (+)

p

Medication (−)

Medication (+)

p

All subjects

 First analysis

  Number of subjects

229

520

 

540

817

 

  Height (cm)

164.2 ± 5.4

164.5 ± 5.5

0.4997

152.0 ± 5.2

151.8 ± 4.9

0.3762

  Body weight (kg)

64.6 ± 8.7

66.5 ± 9.5

0.0097

54.4 ± 7.6

55.8 ± 8.0

0.0015

  Body mass index (kg/m2)

23.9 ± 2.7

24.5 ± 3.1

0.0076

23.6 ± 3.1

24.2 ± 3.3

0.0002

  Abdominal circumference (cm)

84.7 ± 9.0

86.7 ± 9.2

0.0055

77.4 ± 9.0

79.8 ± 9.4

<0.0001

  Hip circumference (cm)

91.3 ± 5.0

92.2 ± 5.6

0.0305

89.9 ± 5.2

90.5 ± 5.5

0.0646

  Right grip strength (kg)

37.5 ± 6.6

35.9 ± 7.2

0.0028

23.0 ± 4.4

21.8 ± 4.6

<0.0001

  Left grip strength (kg)

35.8 ± 6.7

34.6 ± 7.0

0.0213

22.0 ± 4.2

21.0 ± 4.6

<0.0001

  Leg strength (kg)

53.1 ± 12.8

50.2 ± 13.5

0.0059

36.2 ± 8.0

34.7 ± 9.0

0.0013

  Leg strength per body weight

0.83 ± 0.19

0.76 ± 0.19

<0.0001

0.67 ± 0.15

0.63 ± 0.17

<0.0001

  Flexibility (cm)

2.3 ± 10.8

−0.2 ± 9.9

0.0023

11.7 ± 8.0

11.0 ± 8.1

0.1189

 Second analysis

  Number of subjects

33

269

 

55

212

 

  Oxygen uptake at VT (ml/kg/min)

12.9 ± 1.8

12.4 ± 2.0

0.2280

11.8 ± 1.6

11.9 ± 1.7

0.7549

  Work rate at VT (watt)

59.0 ± 12.8

52.9 ± 13.8

0.0176

40.4 ± 9.2

38.2 ± 10.8

0.1651

  Heart rate at VT (beats/min)

96.7 ± 9.9

95.6 ± 13.2

0.6505

99.7 ± 12.5

98.8 ± 12.8

0.6563

60–69

 First analysis

  Number of subjects

195

409

 

490

668

 

  Height (cm)

164.8 ± 5.0

164.8 ± 5.5

0.9816

152.2 ± 5.1

152.2 ± 4.8

0.8692

  Body weight (kg)

65.7 ± 8.2

66.9 ± 9.4

0.1204

54.5 ± 7.6

56.0 ± 7.9

0.0016

  Body mass index (kg/m2)

24.2 ± 2.6

24.6 ± 3.1

0.0755

23.5 ± 3.1

24.1 ± 3.3

0.0010

  Abdominal circumference (cm)

85.4 ± 8.8

86.6 ± 9.2

0.1416

77.2 ± 8.8

79.2 ± 9.2

0.0002

  Hip circumference (cm)

91.8 ± 4.7

92.4 ± 5.7

0.1956

89.9 ± 5.2

90.6 ± 5.5

0.0304

  Right grip strength (kg)

38.2 ± 6.2

36.8 ± 7.0

0.0168

23.1 ± 4.5

22.1 ± 4.5

0.0006

  Left grip strength (kg)

36.8 ± 6.3

35.6 ± 6.7

0.0427

22.0 ± 4.3

21.3 ± 4.5

0.0117

  Leg strength (kg)

54.7 ± 12.4

52.5 ± 13.1

0.0472

36.3 ± 8.0

35.5 ± 8.9

0.1073

  Leg strength per body weight

0.84 ± 0.19

0.79 ± 0.19

0.0028

0.67 ± 0.15

0.64 ± 0.17

0.0018

  Flexibility (cm)

2.5 ± 10.5

0.2 ± 9.6

0.0087

11.6 ± 8.0

11.1 ± 8.0

0.3002

 Second analysis

  Number of subjects

30

225

 

53

175

 

  Oxygen uptake at VT (ml/kg/min)

12.9 ± 1.8

12.7 ± 1.9

0.5373

11.8 ± 1.7

12.1 ± 1.7

0.3367

  Work rate at VT (watt)

59.5 ± 12.5

55.6 ± 12.6

0.1052

40.5 ± 9.4

40.1 ± 10.2

0.7872

  Heart rate at VT (beats/min)

97.1 ± 10.2

96.5 ± 12.8

0.8199

99.6 ± 12.6

99.3 ± 12.8

0.8459

70–79

 First analysis

  Number of subjects

34

111

 

50

149

 

  Height (cm)

160.7 ± 6.3

163.3 ± 5.7

0.0243

150.4 ± 5.5

149.7 ± 4.7

0.4049

  Body weight (kg)

58.2 ± 8.8

64.9 ± 9.7

0.0005

53.8 ± 7.4

55.1 ± 8.1

0.3041

  Body mass index (kg/m2)

22.5 ± 3.0

24.3 ± 2.9

0.0025

23.9 ± 3.5

24.6 ± 3.2

0.1770

  Abdominal circumference (cm)

80.5 ± 9.4

87.2 ± 9.0

0.0003

80.0 ± 10.9

82.6 ± 9.9

0.1158

  Hip circumference (cm)

88.2 ± 5.9

91.5 ± 5.3

0.0029

90.2 ± 4.7

90.0 ± 5.6

0.7944

  Right grip strength (kg)

33.4 ± 7.4

32.3 ± 6.8

0.3916

22.7 ± 4.0

20.3 ± 4.4

0.0006

  Left grip strength (kg)

30.6 ± 6.5

30.9 ± 6.6

0.8323

21.9 ± 3.9

19.4 ± 4.3

0.0004

  Leg strength (kg)

43.5 ± 11.3

41.5 ± 11.4

0.3593

34.8 ± 8.1

30.8 ± 8.6

0.0043

  Leg strength per body weight

0.76 ± 0.21

0.65 ± 0.17

0.0015

0.65 ± 0.16

0.57 ± 0.16

0.0010

  Flexibility (cm)

1.0 ± 12.4

−1.8 ± 11.0

0.2127

12.1 ± 8.0

10.3 ± 8.6

0.1793

 Second analysis

  Number of subjects

3

44

 

2

37

 

  Oxygen uptake at VT (ml/kg/min)

12.8 ± 1.8

11.4 ± 1.7

0.1685

11.9 ± 1.0

11.1 ± 1.5

0.4774

  Work rate at VT (watt)

53.3 ± 17.6

39.5 ± 11.9

0.0642

37.5 ± 3.5

29.2 ± 8.8

0.1980

  Heart rate at VT (beats/min)

93.0 ± 7.2

91.0 ± 14.4

0.8183

100.5 ± 13.4

96.7 ± 12.8

0.6887

Values are means ± SD. p values in boldface are significant

VT ventilatory threshold

In addition, in men in their 60s, muscle strength and flexibility in subjects without medications were significantly higher than these values in subjects with medications. In women, body weight, BMI, abdominal circumference, and hip circumference were significantly lower, and grip strength and leg strength per body weight were significantly higher in subjects without medications than these values in subjects with medications (Table 4).

In men in their 70s, anthropometric parameters were significantly lower and leg strength per body weight was significantly higher in men without medications than these values in men with medications. Muscle strength in women without medications was significantly higher than that in women with medications (Table 4).

We found that there were significant differences in some parameters between subjects with and without medications. We finally compared parameters between subjects in their 60s and subjects in their 70s in without medications (Table 5). In men, anthropometric parameters and muscle strength in those in their 70s were significantly lower than these values in men in their 60s. In women, only abdominal circumference in those in their 70s was higher than that in women in their 60s. There were no differences in other parameters between subjects in their 60s and those in their 70s.
Table 5

Changes in anthropometric and physical fitness parameters in the first and second analyses in subjects without medications

 

Men

Women

60–69

70–79

p

60–69

70–79

p

First analysis

 Number of subjects

195

34

 

490

50

 

 Height (cm)

164.8 ± 5.0

160.7 ± 6.3

<0.0001

152.2 ± 5.1

150.4 ± 5.5

0.0189

 Body weight (kg)

65.7 ± 8.2

58.2 ± 8.8

<0.0001

54.5 ± 7.6

53.8 ± 7.4

0.5481

 Body mass index (kg/m2)

24.2 ± 2.6

22.5 ± 3.0

0.0012

23.5 ± 3.1

23.9 ± 3.5

0.4736

 Abdominal circumference (cm)

85.4 ± 8.8

80.5 ± 9.4

0.0035

77.2 ± 8.8

80.0 ± 10.9

0.0383

 Hip circumference (cm)

91.8 ± 4.7

88.2 ± 5.9

0.0001

89.9 ± 5.2

90.2 ± 4.7

0.7027

 Right grip strength kg)

38.2 ± 6.2

33.4 ± 7.4

<0.0001

23.1 ± 4.5

22.7 ± 4.0

0.5974

 Left grip strength (kg)

36.8 ± 6.3

30.6 ± 6.5

<0.0001

22.0 ± 4.3

21.9 ± 3.9

0.8747

 Leg strength (kg)

54.7 ± 12.4

43.5 ± 11.3

<0.0001

36.3 ± 8.0

34.8 ± 8.1

0.1953

 Leg strength per body weight

0.84 ± 0.19

0.76 ± 0.21

0.0250

0.67 ± 0.15

0.65 ± 0.16

0.3706

 Flexibility (cm)

2.5 ± 10.5

1.0 ± 12.4

0.4562

11.6 ± 8.0

12.1 ± 8.0

0.6805

Second analysis

 Number of subjects

30

3

 

53

2

 

 Oxygen uptake at VT (ml/kg/min)

12.9 ± 1.8

12.8 ± 1.8

0.9404

11.8 ± 1.6

11.9 ± 1.0

0.9520

 Work rate at VT (watt)

59.5 ± 12.5

53.3 ± 17.6

0.4342

40.5 ± 9.4

37.5 ± 3.5

0.6526

 Heart rate at VT (beats/min)

97.1 ± 10.2

93.0 ± 7.2

0.5071

99.6 ± 12.6

100.5 ± 13.4

0.9253

Values are means ± SD. p values in boldface are significant

VT ventilatory threshold

Discussion

We evaluated anthropometric parameters, muscle strength, flexibility, and aerobic exercise levels in elderly Japanese. Especially in elderly subjects without medications, this mean value for those in their 60s and 70s may provide a useful database for evaluating anthropometric parameters and physical fitness.

It has been well reported that there is significant loss in muscle strength with aging [15, 16]. Aging is associated with alterations in body composition; there is an increase in body fat percentage and a concomitant decline in lean body mass [17]. Aging, therefore, results in substantial alterations in body composition, with a marked reduction in skeletal muscle mass. It has also been well reported that there is significant loss in oxygen uptake at the ventilatory threshold (VT) –which is also considered an accurate and reliable parameter of aerobic exercise level [13]–with aging [18, 19]. Miura reported that oxygen uptake at VT was significantly correlated with age (men, r = −0.626; women, r = −0.578) in 610 Japanese [18]. Sanada et al. reported that a negative correlation was noted between oxygen uptake at VT and age in 1,463 Japanese [19]. However, there are few reports of the evaluation of physical fitness in elderly Japanese. In the previous studies noted above, the number of subjects over the age of 70 was 20 in men and 16 in women [18], and 65 in men and 13 in women [19]. Especially, there are no accurate reference data for physical fitness in Japanese subjects over the age of 70 without medications. We have previously reported on changes in maximal oxygen uptake in subjects aged 20–69 years [20]. In the present study, we evaluated anthropometric parameters, muscle strength, flexibility, and aerobic exercise levels in subjects over the age of 60. We measured anthropometric parameters, muscle strength, and flexibility in 145 men and 199 women in their 70s. In addition, we compared parameters between subjects with and without medications. Although we evaluated VT in only 3 men and 2 women in their 70s without medications, this information gathered should serve as quite a useful database for evaluating anthropometric parameters, muscle strength, flexibility, and aerobic exercise levels in elderly Japanese subjects.

We found a difference in anthropometric parameters and muscle strength between men with and without medications in their 60s and 70s. However, in women, abdominal circumference in those in their 70s was higher than that in women in their 60s, while other parameters in women in their 70s were similar to values in those in their 60s. Sanada et al. [19] also reported that, in women, fat-free body mass in those in their 70s (41.5 ± 3.5 kg) was similar to that in women in their 60s (40.0 ± 4.4 kg), while in men, fat-free mass in those in their 70s (52.9 ± 4.1 kg) was lower than that in men in their 60s (55.3 ± 52.9 kg). Previous exercise habits, current exercise habits, and sample size may affect the results.

There are potential limitations in the present study. First, our study was a cross-sectional and not a longitudinal study. Second, the 2,106 elderly subjects, all of whom wanted to change their lifestyle, underwent measurements for this study: they were therefore more health-conscious than the average person. The 569 subjects selected in the second analysis underwent aerobic exercise testing; they were therefore more health-conscious than most of the subjects in the first analysis. Third, the small sample size, especially of subjects in their 70s without medications, might make it difficult to compare aerobic exercise levels between subjects with and without medications, and to compare these levels between subjects in their 60s and those in their 70s. In addition, the death rate in subjects aged 75–79 is higher than that in those aged 70–74 [21]. Therefore, it is well expected that there are differences in physical fitness between subjects aged 70–74 and those aged 75–79. Further large-sample-size and prospective studies are needed in elderly Japanese.

Declarations

Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by Research Grants from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, Japan.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Hygiene, Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University, Miki, Japan
(2)
National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Tokyo, Japan
(3)
Sports and Health Science, Ritsumeikan University, Kusatsu, Japan
(4)
Okayama Southern Institute of Health, Okayama Health Foundation, Okayama, Japan

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Copyright

© The Japanese Society for Hygiene 2011

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