Life Course and Physical Activity of an Aging America

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This paper addresses physical activity in an aging America using life-course theory, employing cross-sectional data (N=282,313) from ten years of the US National Health Interview Survey. The aim is to explore detailed relationships of physical activity behavior to life course and related background factors in a larger data set than available in longitudinal surveys. The practice aim is to suggest intervention strategies with populations with unique life-course and background characteristics. Life-course theory is a dynamic theory properly vetted with longitudinal data. However, use of multiple years of a large, nationally representative cross-sectional survey allows for separation of cohort, age, and historical factors and consideration of their interactions with such background factors as gender, ethnicity/race, marital status, living situation, and any immigration background. Complex patterns are shown by marital status interacted with gender, with very different effects of marital status for women than for men. Likewise, different patterns are shown by ethnicity interacted with age. Implications for health promotion are considered particularly for gender, marital status, and ethnicity, especially as they interact with age.