Health is not just about disease and diagnoses – it’s also about how we feel, how we function and how we adapt to changes in our lives, for example the changes we go through as we age . For most of us, our state of health is affected by our development and experience over the course of our entire lives.
Physical capability, or physical functioning as it is often called, refers to a person’s capacity to undertake the physical tasks of everyday life, such as getting up from a chair, or walking . Looking at differences in people’s physical capability over the course of their lives may be able to help us identify those people who are more likely to achieve a longer and healthier life and maintain their independence and quality of life as they get older.
It is important to remember that longitudinal studies use different types of complementary measures to assess important aspects of physical capability. These include self-reported information and objective assessments, such as grip strength, walking speed, ability to get up from a chair, and standing balance. These objective measures may be more accurate in assessing change over time. They also allow us to identify those both people performing well and those with limitations, and can make it easier to compare findings across studies and generations.
Why is physical capability important?
Poor physical capability in early to mid adulthood may be an indicator of future health. A systematic review of research on this topic found that poorer performance on commonly used objective measures of physical capability (such as grip strength and walking speed) was associated with a higher risk of developing health problems later on in life, including fractures and cognitive decline .
Other studies have found that lower physical capability is linked to higher rates of death ,. Recent findings from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development