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Vitamin D levels associated with improved physical performance in the elderly

Posted on Wednesday, 25 April, 2012 by anthony

A recent large scale population based research study (2594 participants) looking at the association between serum levels of vitamin d and measures of co-ordination, strength, and fitness in the elderly, found that optimal physical performance occurred in subjects with the highest serum vitamin d levels (Toffanello et al., 2012).

About the vitamin D research

The researchers looked at the relationship between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (250HD) – the serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level is used to determine how much vitamin D is in the body – and a number of performance measures including: 1) Tandem test – a measure static balance ability; 2) 5 timed chair stands (TCS) – a measure of coordination and strength; 3) Gait speed; 4) 6-minute walking test (6 mW) – a measure of aerobic capacity; and 5) Handgrip and quadriceps strength – a measure of upper and lower body strength.

About the subjects
The research sample was made up of 2594 elderly subjects (1597 Females and 1097 Males) with mean ages of 75.6 y (±7.5) in women, and 76.2 y (±7.8) in men. Vitamin D deficiency was observed in 40% of women and 20% of men with severe deficiency present in 13.5% of women and 5.9% of men.

The results of the vitamin D research

The researchers found significant relationships between the levels of vitamin d and the: Timed chair stands test, Gait speed test, 6-minute walk test, and the Handgrip strength test. There was no significant relationship between the tandem test performance and quadriceps strength test in either men or women.

The researchers concluded that lower 25OHD levels – an indication of vitamin d levels within the body - are associated with a reduced coordination and strength in women, a slower walking time and reduced handgrip strength in men, and a reduced aerobic capacity in both genders. They suggest that “For optimal physical performances, 25OHD concentrations of 100 nmol/L appear to be more advantageous in elderly men and women, and Vitamin D supplementation should be encouraged to maintain their 25OHD levels as high as this threshold.”

In addition the researchers found that, after adjusting for age, both the male and female subjects with the lowest levels of vitamin D were significantly less active, had greater levels of depression and were more cognitively impaired than participants with the highest levels of vitamin D.

In summary:
Lower levels of vitamin D were associated with decreased aerobic capacity, handgrip strength, co-ordination and a slower walking time.


Toffanello ED, Perissinotto E, Sergi G, Zambon S, Musacchio E, Maggi, S., Coin A, Sartori L, Corti M-C, Baggio G, Crepaldi G, and Manzato E (2012) Vitamin D and Physical Performance in Elderly Subjects: The Pro.V.A Study. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34950. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034950

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