Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evaluation of physical activity programmes for the elderly - exploring the lessons from other sectors and examining the general characteristics of the programmes

Ana I Marques1*, Pedro Soares2, Luísa Soares-Miranda1, Carla Moreira1, António Oliveira-Tavares1, Paula Clara-Santos13, Susana Vale1, Rute Santos14 and Joana Carvalho1

Author Affiliations

1 Research Centre in Physical Activity, Health and Leisure, Faculty of Sport, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal

2 Department of Physical Education, José Estêvão High School, Aveiro, Portugal

3 School of Health Technology of Porto, Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Porto, Portugal

4 Research Centre in Sports, Health Sciences and Human Development, Higher Institute of Maia, Maia, Portugal

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:368  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-368

Published: 26 September 2011



In Portugal, there are several physical activity (PA) programmes for elderly people developed by the local government. The importance of these programmes has been increasing since the evidence has shown that this type of health promotion interventions may reduce the deleterious effects of the ageing process. However, no study has already identified the general characteristics of these programmes nor if they use any scheme to assess the quality of the service provided. A widely-used scheme is the EFQM Excellence Model, which will be in the core of our present work. Thus, the main aims of this preliminary study were 1) to identify the general characteristics of the PA programmes developed by the Portuguese Local Public Administration 2) to determine the extent of implementation of quality initiatives in these programmes.


Data were collected by an on-line questionnaire sent to all Continental Municipalities (n = 278). Categorical data were expressed as absolute counts and percentages. Continuous data were expressed as the mean and SD. An open-ended question was analysed using qualitative content analysis with QSR NVivo software. Associations between categorical variables were tested by the use of contingency tables and the calculation of chi-square tests. Significance level was set at p ≤ 0.05.


Results showed: i) a total of 125 PA programmes were identified in the 18 districts of the Portugal mainland; ii) the main goal of the majority (95.2%) was the participants' health promotion; iii) different characteristics of the programmes were found according to different regions of the country; iv) certain characteristics of the programmes were associated to the existence of other features; v) only one PA programme developed quality initiatives.


In conclusion, although there are many PA programmes for elderly people spread throughout the country, aiming at improving the health of participants, the overwhelming majority does not adopt quality control initiatives. Considering that the quality of a service increases customer satisfaction, the continuous quality improvement of the PA programmes for elderly people should therefore be implemented since they can be useful and critical for elderly satisfaction and adherence.

physical activity; elderly people; quality; assessment; EFQM