Health Literacy and Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity During Aging, 2004–2013


      Health literacy (the ability to read and understand health information) may help to support sustained participation in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during aging; this relationship has never been examined longitudinally. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between health literacy and participation in weekly MVPA over an 8-year period among older adults.


      Data were from interviews with 4,345 adults aged 52–79 years in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing from 2004/2005 to 2012/2013, analyzed in 2015. Health literacy was assessed in 2004/2005 as reading comprehension of a medicine label, defined as “low” (≤2/4 items correct); “medium” (3/4); and “high” (4/4). The outcome was maintaining weekly MVPA at all of five time points from 2004/2005 to 2012/2013. A population-weighted logistic regression model was adjusted for sociodemographic, physical health, and cognitive (memory and verbal fluency) covariates.


      Overall, 72% (3,128/4,345) of the sample had high health literacy; 18% (797/4,345) had medium health literacy; and 10% (420/4,345) had low health literacy. Of those with high health literacy, 59% (1,840/3,128) consistently reported weekly participation in MVPA, compared with 33% (138/420) of those with low health literacy (AOR=1.37, 95% CI=1.04, 1.80). Better memory was weakly positively associated with long-term MVPA (AOR=1.03, 95% CI=1.00, 1.05, per point increase out of 24), as was better verbal fluency (AOR=1.05, 95% CI=1.01, 1.09, per point increase out of 9).


      High health literacy and good cognitive function are independently associated with participation in weekly MVPA over an 8-year period during aging.
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