Physical activity (PA) is known to decline with age; however, there is a paucity of data on activity in persons who are in their nineties and beyond. We used objective and reliable methods to measure PA in nonagenarians (>or=90 yr; n=98) and hypothesized that activity would be similar to that of aged (60-74 yr; n=58) subjects but less than in young (20-34 yr; n=53) volunteers. Total energy expenditure (TEE) was measured by doubly labeled water over 14 days and resting metabolic rate (RMR) by indirect calorimetry. Measures of PA included activity energy expenditure adjusted for body composition, TEE adjusted for RMR, physical activity level (PAL), and activity over 14 days by accelerometry expressed as average daily durations of light and moderate activity. RMR and TEE were lower with increasing age group (P<0.01); however, RMR was not different between aged and nonagenarian subjects after adjusting for fat-free mass, fat mass, and sex. Nonagenarians had a lower PAL and were more sedentary than the aged and young groups (P<0.01); however, the nonagenarians who were more active on a daily basis walked further during a timed test, indicating higher physical functionality. For all measures of activity, no differences were found between young and aged volunteers. PA was markedly lower in nonagenarians compared with young and aged adults. Interestingly, PA was similar between young volunteers and those who were in their 60s and 70s, likely due to the sedentary nature of our society, particularly in young adults.