Why good relationships in old age also promote physical fitness

Effects of interpersonal relationships on activity

Strong interpersonal relationships can help adults stay physically active even in older age. A finding with far-reaching effects - especially in times of physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest research by Chevelle Davis' research team at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa found that a strong relationship can help older people stay physically active, which has a positive impact on overall health. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Aging and Physical Activity".

Relationships motivate people to stay physically active

Relationships are the key to influencing positive health behavior, which should also be taken into account in physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Individual and interpersonal factors have the greatest impact on compliance with the guidelines for physical activity, the researchers report. It had been found that study participants with a higher education, a strong relationship with a life partner or a network of close friends were significantly more likely to exercise regularly.

How can older people more easily meet physical activity guidelines?

The research group wanted to better understand how the level of physical activity in adults is affected by other aspects of their lives. For this purpose, the data of 1,193 adults aged 65 to 74 years were evaluated in the study. The researchers attempted to find out how individual, interpersonal, organizational, and community factors influence whether older people meet the physical activity guidelines (defined as 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week).

Social isolation favors health problems

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical not to forget the importance of social relationships and maintaining physical activity to reduce chronic illnesses and premature deaths, the team explains. Older adults who feel socially isolated are at higher risk of depression, cognitive decline, and other health problems. Innovative ways must be identified to maintain interpersonal and physical activity while adhering to public health guidelines, the researchers add.

People with depression tend to be less physically active

It is important that female participants and all participants with depression were less likely to engage in regular physical activity. Mental health challenges are likely to increase during this time, but easy walking, which is generally safe and acceptable to most older adults, has been shown to protect against symptoms of depression. Walks in parks are allowed even in Corona times.

Relationships: key to influencing positive health behavior

The study results show that relationships can be the key to influencing positive health behavior, including physical activity. These results are consistent with other studies that have already shown the importance of relationships in the aging process in different cultures. It remains to be hoped that health approaches and interventions can now be derived that specifically target older adults in order to keep them healthy in times of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, the researchers emphasize. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Chevelle M.A. Davis, Tetine L. Sentell, Juliana Fernandes de Souza Barbosa, Alban Ylli, Carmen-Lucia Curcio et al .: Meeting Physical Activity Guidelines by Walking in Older Adults From Three Middle-Income Countries: A Cross-Sectional Analysis From the International Mobility in Aging Study, in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (published 2020), Journal of Aging and Physical Activity

Video: Body Hacking: Using Exercise Physiology to Slow Aging with Anne Friedlander (January 2022).