BACKGROUND: To date, few studies have compared effects of different levels of physical activity (PA) whereas no study has been performed to directly evaluate cognitive-recreational activity like playing cards upon cognition in the elderly. Our study aimed at evaluating the effects of PA and cognitive-recreational activity on QoL of elderly people with different habits. METHODS: Participants (75 healthy males, mean age: 72.1±4.1 years) were divided into four subgroups, according to PA levels (moderate vs. high intensity) and free time spending (cognitive recreational activity like playing cards vs no hobbies). They were administered the 36-item Short-Form Survey (SF-36). The Mediterranean Adequacy Index (MAI) was calculated, too. A multiple regression analysis was performed to evaluate the influence of moderate and high-intensity PA and cognitive-recreational activity on SF-36 dimensions. RESULTS: The four groups did not show any significant difference on MAI. Both moderate and high-intensity PA influenced all the SF-36 dimensions, except for limitations about physical and emotional role. Among the sedentary subjects, those playing cards showed a positive influence of their activity on some SF-36 dimensions but lesser than groups practicing PA at different levels. CONCLUSIONS: PA is one of the most cost-effective ways to maintain health for elderly people. A moderate-intensity PA is sufficient in itself for improving some QoL dimensions. Interventions should be developed in order to assist elderly people, especially female, to comply with the WHO Recommendations on PA.
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