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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Are behavioral interventions effective in increasing physical activity at 12 to 36 months in adults aged 55 to 70 years? a systematic review and meta-analysis

Nicola Hobbs1*, Alan Godfrey2, Jose Lara3, Linda Errington4, Thomas D Meyer5, Lynn Rochester2, Martin White16, John C Mathers3 and Falko F Sniehotta16

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Baddiley-Clark Building, Richardson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4AX, UK

2 Clinical Ageing Research Unit, Newcastle University, Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5PL, UK

3 Human Nutrition Research Centre, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Biomedical Research Building, Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

4 Walton Library, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5PL, UK

5 Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Ridley Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK

6 Fuse, UKCRC Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Baddiley-Clark Building, Richardson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4AX, UK

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BMC Medicine 2013, 11:75  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-75

Published: 19 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Retirement represents a major transitional life stage in middle to older age. Changes in physical activity typically accompany this transition, which has significant consequences for health and well-being. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence for the effect of interventions to promote physical activity in adults aged 55 to 70 years, focusing on studies that reported long-term effectiveness. This systematic review adheres to a registered protocol (PROSPERO CRD42011001459).

Methods

Randomized controlled trials of interventions to promote physical activity behavior with a mean/median sample age of 55 to 70 years, published between 2000 and 2010, were identified. Only trials reporting the long-term effect (≥ 12 months) on objective or self-reported physical activity behavior were included. Trials reporting physiological proxy measures of physical activity were excluded. Meta-analyses were conducted when trials provided sufficient data and sensitivity analyses were conducted to identify potential confounding effects of trials of poor methodological quality or with attrition rates ≥ 30%.

Results

Of 17,859 publications identified, 32 were included which reported on 21 individual trials. The majority of interventions were multimodal and provided physical activity and lifestyle counselling. Interventions to promote physical activity were effective at 12 months (standardized mean difference (SMD) = 1.08, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.16 to 1.99, pedometer step-count, approximating to an increase of 2,197 steps per day; SMD = 0.19, 95% CI = 0.10 to 0.28, self-reported physical activity duration outcome), but not at 24 months based on a small subset of trials. There was no evidence for a relationship between intervention effectiveness and mode of delivery or number of intervention contacts; however, interventions which involved individually tailoring with personalized activity goals or provision of information about local opportunities in the environment may be more effective.

Conclusions

Interventions in adults aged 55 to 70 years led to long term improvements in physical activity at 12 months; however, maintenance beyond this is unclear. Identified physical activity improvements are likely to have substantial health benefits in reducing the risk of age-related illnesses. These findings have important implications for community-based public health interventions in and around the retirement transition.

Keywords:
Physical activity; intervention; aging; systematic review; meta-analysis