Background: Official health organizations have established the dose of physical activity needed for preserving both physical and psychological health in old age. The objective of this study was to explore whether adherence to the recommended criterion of physical activity accounted for better psychological functioning in older adults in Israel.
Methods: A random sample of 1,663 (799 men) Israelis reported their physical activity routine, and based on official guidelines were divided into sufficiently active, insufficiently active, and inactive groups. The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) was used for assessing mental health and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) for assessing cognitive functioning.
Results: Factor analysis performed on the GHQ yielded two factors – positive and negative. Logistic regressions for the GHQ factors and for the MMSE were conducted for explaining their variance, with demographic variables entered first, followed by health and then physical activity. The explained variance in the three steps was Cox and Snell R2
= 0.022, 0.023, 0.039 for the positive factor, 0.066, 0.093, 0.101 for the negative factor, and 0.204, 0.206, 0.209 for the MMSE.
Conclusions: Adherence to the recommended dose of physical activity accounted for better psychological functioning beyond demographic and health variables; however, the additional explained variance was small. More specific guidelines of physical activity may elucidate a stronger relationship, but only randomized controlled trials can reveal cause–effect relationship between physical activity and psychological functioning. More studies are needed focusing on the positive factor of psychological functioning.