A 2016 study concluded that the elderly spend 2.5 times the national average on health services (De Nardi 2016). Despite consisting of only 14 percent of the United States population, the elderly accounted for 34 percent of all medical spending, and accounted for 73 percent of all deaths (De Nardi 2016). In addition, current projections estimate that with the aging of the baby boomer generation, the percentage of the population that is older than 65 will swell to approximately 20 percent of the population by 2030 (Ortman 2014). If the medical spending holds, this will coincide with massive increases in health service utilization and costs. Costs of health services are currently a contentious topic at both the state and federal levels, with a seemingly insurmountable divide existing between the two main US political parties. This research attempted to gain better understanding of the health effects that physically active lifestyles elicit in older populations. Previous research connected biological outcomes across several systems to improvements in systemic health, but our efforts attempted to apply similar analysis to generalized activity levels in the form of various reported activities standardized using metabolic equivalent task metrics. For this study, the examined age group expanded beyond individuals that are older than 65, and instead included all ages over 50. Analysis used Metabolic Equivalent Task Minutes (METS) as a representative variable of general activity, using ordinary least squares regression to analyze effects on biological systems. It was found that with the selected model, there was minimal to no impact biologically that correlated with increasing general activity levels among the 50+ community. Secondary analyses were performed that lacked sufficient statistical power, however their results may be useful in determining further course of study. In the first of the secondary analyses, we used the exercise model to assess changes in individual perception of health. In this there were very few correlations found between biological health and perceptions of health. Finally, biological health and perception of health were regressed against several variables that were indicative of medical service utilization Analysis found that for the selected cohort, there were minimal measurable biological effects relating to exercise, but that the more active respondents correlated with higher belief in control over their health, as well as reductions in health-based restrictions on ability to perform intermediate level activities of daily living.
Science, Technology and Public Policy (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Public Policy (CLA)
Schuler, Nathan Albert, "Physical Activity in Aging: Biological Outcomes, Functional Automony, and Policy Implications" (2020). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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