Changes in daily activity patterns with age in U.S. men and women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-04 and 2005-06

Kathryn R Martin, Annemarie Koster, Rachel A Murphy, Dane R Van Domelen, Ming-yang Hung, Robert J Brychta, Kong Y Chen, Tamara B Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To compare daily and hourly activity patterns according to sex and age.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, observational.

SETTING: Nationally representative community sample: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-04 and 2005-06.

PARTICIPANTS: Individuals (n = 5,788) aged 20 and older with 4 or more valid days of monitor wear-time, no missing data on valid wear-time minutes, and covariates.

MEASUREMENTS: Activity was examined as average counts per minute (CPM) during wear-time; percentage of time spent in nonsedentary activity; and time (minutes) spent in sedentary (<100 counts), light (100-759), and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA (≥ 760)). Analyses accounted for survey design, adjusted for covariates, and were sex specific.

RESULTS: In adjusted models, men spent slightly more time (~1-2%) in nonsedentary activity than women aged 20 to 34, with levels converging at age 35 to 59, although the difference was not significant. Women aged 60 and older spent significantly more time (~3-4%) in nonsedentary activity than men, despite similarly achieved average CPM. With increasing age, all nonsedentary activity decreased in men; light activity remained constant in women (~30%). Older men had fewer CPM at night (~20), more daytime sedentary minutes (~3), fewer daytime light physical activity minutes (~4), and more MVPA minutes (~1) until early evening than older women.

CONCLUSION: Although sex differences in average CPM declined with age, differences in nonsedentary activity time emerged as men increased sedentary behavior and reduced MVPA time. Maintained levels of light-intensity activity suggest that women continue engaging in common daily activities into older age more than men. Findings may help inform the development of behavioral interventions to increase intensity and overall activity levels, particularly in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1263-1271
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number7
Early online date24 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation © 2014, The American Geriatrics Society.

Funded by: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Grant Number: DGE-0940903

Sponsor's Role: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant DGE-0940903 (DRV).


  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Sex Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult
  • NHANES 2003-2004, 2005-2006
  • Physical Activity
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Accelerometer
  • Patterns of Daily Activity


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