Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Epidemiology and Biostatistics


Thornton, Jane

2nd Supervisor

Stranges, Saverio


Regular physical activity is a well-known protective factor against chronic disease and strongly correlated with healthy aging. However, as physical activity levels tend to decline with age, there is a need to identify barriers which prevent older adults from being physically active. This thesis investigated the relationship between socioeconomic status and meeting physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes or more of moderate- to vigorous- intensity physical activity among middle-aged to older adults in Canada. Using cross-sectional data from the baseline assessment of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, block-wise multivariable logistic regression was performed to assess the association between socioeconomic status, represented by education and wealth, in relation to meeting physical activity guidelines while adjusting for demographic, lifestyle and other health related factors. Sex and age-stratified analyses were conducted. After adjusting for all covariates, having a post-secondary education was a significant correlate of meeting physical activity guidelines among males, while higher wealth was a significant correlate of meeting physical activity guidelines among both males and females. Evidence of effect modification by weight status on education and wealth was found. Our findings highlight the need to increase accessibility of physical activity among disadvantaged population subgroups so that all can reap the benefits of physical activity. Further research using longitudinal data to assess the causality of the association between socioeconomic status and physical activity levels, inclusive of First Nations and people living in the Northern territories, is needed.

Summary for Lay Audience

The World Health Organization ranks physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide and low physical fitness exposes individuals to a greater risk of dying than does smoking, obesity, or hypertension. Physical activity has the potential to improve health outcomes in over 30 noncommunicable diseases. Unfortunately, four out of five Canadians do not meet the national physical activity guidelines and systemic barriers to adoption of physical activity exist, especially for older adults. While socioeconomic status is likely to represent one of the most important factors influencing the uptake of regular physical activity, it remains unknown which socioeconomic indicator affects physical activity in older Canadians. The present study will fill this knowledge gap by summarizing and evaluating variations in physical activity adherence with respect to socioeconomic status, accounting for other correlates of physical activity among middle-aged to older adults.

Included in

Epidemiology Commons