The aim of the study was to assess physical activity of women and men aged 50–65 years in view of health recommendations. Regular physical activity performed in everyday life and in leisure time, among others, is validated nowadays as bringing health benefits. Therefore, to assess habitual physical activity of the subjects, we used the short version of IPAQ, in which the participants declared their performance of all physical activities of at least 10 min duration. Only 28 % of all surveyed women and 41 % men performed, throughout their typical week, physical activity recommended by the ACSM as standards in order to gain health benefits. These recommendations are regarded as the most up-to-date and well-founded scientifically . The ACSM recommendations include three main criteria of physical activity for health benefits: frequency per week, intensity, and duration per day .
Our research showed that the majority of the surveyed women and men did not meet the criterion of the frequency of vigorous- and moderate-intensity physical activity. Only physical activity of such frequency is regarded nowadays as benefiting for health [11, 14, 26]. The average frequency of vigorous-intensity physical activity of the female and male subjects was two times per week, while of moderate-intensity physical activity, three times per week. The ACSM recommendations set these levels at three and five times (respectively) per week .
However, the vast majority of the participants of both genders did meet the criteria of total duration of habitual physical activity per day on days when it was performed. It was respectively 60 min among women and 70 min among men for vigorous-intensity physical activity and 75 min among women and 90 min among men for moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the day. It exceeded the recommended levels (20 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity and 30 min of moderate-intensity physical activity) more than two times. Therefore, the reason for not meeting the standards of physical activity for health benefits was mainly its low frequency per week. This is the main finding of our research. It should be emphasized here that the parameters of physical activity for health benefits recommended by the ACSM are regarded as the minimum. Everyday, physical activity of at least moderate intensity is more and more frequently pointed out as the model of physical activity for health benefits .
Our research showed statistically significant differences of the percentage of the surveyed females and males meeting the ACSM recommendations in some of the selected subgroups, depending on age, education, and BMI of the participants. The prevalence of young individuals over older adults, as well male gender over female, in fulfilling the basic parameters of habitual physical activity was proved by several researchers [22, 28, 30]. Our research confirmed this trend also among older adults aged 50–65 years.
Other studies indicate that higher level of physical activity generally characterizes individuals with normal BMI [1, 3, 16, 31] and that habitual physical activity increases with the increase of the education level . In our study, only the percentage of men with the normal BMI meeting the ACSM criteria was significantly higher than among women. We also demonstrated that men with vocational education outnumbered women over two times in meeting the criteria of physical activity for health benefits recommended by the ACSM. Only in this case, men who fulfilled the ACSM recommendations prevailed over those who did not fulfill them. The probable cause was the physical effort of these men during their occupational activities, associated with their qualifications (level of education).
As far as other criteria are concerned, both in female and male subgroups, the number of subjects that met the ACSM recommendations was significantly lower than those who did not meet them. The reason was certainly the fact that the majority of the surveyed men worked in professions requiring physical effort. Such individuals were the minority among women. It may be concluded that occupational physical activity was the factor that determined higher percentage of men fulfilling health recommendations. At the same time, it indicates low percentage of male individuals performing leisure-time physical activity. Similar conclusion was drawn by Biernat  for the representatives of the population of Warsaw of both genders.
In summary, physical activity recommended for health benefits was performed more frequently by men of normal BMI, with vocational and secondary education, and aged 50–60 years. The percentage of such individuals was only about 40 %. Similar trends were observed in female subgroups to a lesser extent.
In view of the purposeful selection of the study group, according to the criteria characterized in the section Material and methods, this conclusion may be interpreted only as (statistical) trends observed in the group of men and women studied by us. The aim of the author’s papers is to carry out a similar study in a randomly selected sample of five million population of the Silesian agglomeration (Upper Silesia, Poland).
Insufficient physical activity at the level bringing health benefits and its negative consequences in older adults has already been documented in numerous world studies. Their findings are consistent with our study [1, 4, 5].
The study carried out in Brazil, within the program Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BERFS), indicated that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, 60 % of healthy individuals and 70 % of those with health disorders did not perform the sufficient amount of physical activity. Leisure-time physical activity, as well as connected with occupation and daily chores, was assessed, similar to our study (IPAQ).
Observations carried out in Switzerland among individuals aged “50+” proved that 9 % of subjects was physically active at the moderate level, while 18.2 %, at the vigorous level. Among the remaining subjects, 8.7 % was assessed as active at the optimal level, whereas 47 % performed only physical activity connected with daily chores .
The diagnosis of the physical activity of the population of European countries (Bridging Earth, Worth Gap Project) pointed out that only 6–8 % of the population of Poland may be classified as physically active at the vigorous level . The health assessment of Poles indicated physical activity of 50–60 % of subjects as too low; this applies particularly to individuals aged 50 years and older .
Numerous studies emphasized higher level of physical activity among individuals with higher education; however, it concerned generally leisure-time physical activity [1, 19]. At the same time, it was indicated that over 50 % of individuals aged 60 years and older did not perform recommended physical activity . We derived similar conclusion based on our study.
Numerous papers point out that normal build of older adults, particularly normal body weight, favors higher level of physical activity [1, 3, 10, 31]. In our study, normal weight men significantly more frequently complied with the ACSM recommendations as compared to those who were not physically active enough. Similar relationship was not observed among women, probably because the majority of them displayed a low level of physical activity.
The findings of longitudinal studies of mortality among individuals displaying high and low levels of physical activity are of particular interest. They proved, among others, that after 15 years of increased physical activity, the risk of premature death significantly decreased in men aged 50 years as compared to individuals who did not increase their level of physical activity . Therefore, the conclusions of the majority of papers on physical activity of individuals aged 50 years and older emphasize its undisputed significance for the health and well-being of contemporary generations. The efficient promoting of properly dosed physical activity, particularly among older adults, is therefore considered as a social goal of utmost importance for institutions and individuals responsible for its completion. It is also a challenge for decision makers in the public health sector in Poland, who should bear in mind that the treatment of diseases of affluence, particularly hypokinetic diseases, being the main cause of premature deaths, is several times more expensive than their prevention. Rational physical activity is nowadays its irreplaceable element.