Open Access Study protocol

Randomised controlled trial of a complex intervention by primary care nurses to increase walking in patients aged 60–74 years: protocol of the PACE-Lift (Pedometer Accelerometer Consultation Evaluation - Lift) trial

Tess Harris1*, Sally Kerry2, Christina Victor3, Ulf Ekelund45, Alison Woodcock6, Steve Iliffe7, Peter Whincup1, Carole Beighton8, Michael Ussher1, Lee David9, Debbie Brewin9, Fredrika Adams1, Annabelle Rogers1 and Derek Cook1

Author Affiliations

1 Population Health Research Centre, St George’s University of London, London SW17 ORE, UK

2 Pragmatic Clinical Trials Unit, Queen Mary’s University of London, London, E12AT, UK

3 Gerontology and Health Services Research Unit, Brunel University, London, UB8 3PH, UK

4 MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 OQQ, UK

5 Department of Sport Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, PO Box 4014, Oslo, 0806, Norway

6 Psychology Dept, Royal Holloway, University of London, London, TW20 OEX, UK

7 Department of Population Health Sciences, University College, London, NW3 2PF, UK

8 Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London, SE1 0AA, UK

9 10 Minute CBT, Devonshire Business Centre, Letchworth Garden City, Herts, SG61GJ, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-5

Published: 4 January 2013



Physical activity is essential for older peoples’ physical and mental health and for maintaining independence. Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes weekly, of at least moderate intensity physical activity, with activity on most days. Older people’s most common physical activity is walking, light intensity if strolling, moderate if brisker. Less than 20% of United Kingdom 65–74 year olds report achieving the guidelines, despite most being able to. Effective behaviour change techniques include strategies such as goal setting, self-monitoring, building self-efficacy and relapse prevention. Primary care physical activity consultations allow individual tailoring of advice. Pedometers measure step-counts and accelerometers measure physical activity intensity. This protocol describes an innovative intervention to increase walking in older people, incorporating pedometer and accelerometer feedback within a primary care nurse physical activity consultation, using behaviour change techniques.


Design: Randomised controlled trial with intervention and control (usual care) arms plus process and qualitative evaluations.

Participants: 300 people aged 60–74 years registered with 3 general practices within Oxfordshire and Berkshire West primary care trusts, able to walk outside and with no restrictions to increasing their physical activity.

Intervention: 3 month pedometer and accelerometer based intervention supported by practice nurse physical activity consultations. Four consultations based on behaviour change techniques, physical activity diary, pedometer average daily steps and accelerometer feedback on physical activity intensity. Individual physical activity plans based on increasing walking and other existing physical activity will be produced.

Outcomes: Change in average daily steps (primary outcome) and average time spent in at least moderate intensity physical activity weekly (secondary outcome) at 3 months and 12 months, assessed by accelerometry. Other outcomes include quality of life, mood, exercise self-efficacy, injuries. Qualitative evaluations will explore reasons for trial non-participation, the intervention’s acceptability to patients and nurses and factors enhancing or acting as barriers for older people in increasing their physical activity levels.


The PACE-Lift trial will determine the feasibility and efficacy of an intervention for increasing physical activity among older primary care patients. Steps taken to minimise bias and the challenges anticipated will be discussed. Word count 341.

Trial registration number


Physical activity; Older people; Pedometers; Accelerometers; Walking intervention; Cognitive behavioural; Primary care; Practice nurse