Physical Activity in Older Adults

  • Phoenix, Cassandra (PI)

Project: Central government, health and local authorities

Project Details


Full title: Which interventions maintain and/or increas physcial activity in older people? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative evidence.

The research addresses the following questions:

1) What is known about the effectiveness of interventions to encourage older people (aged 50 and over) to remain physically active or increase their levels of physical activity?

2) Are there groups of older people for whom these interventions work better or less well?

3) What gaps and limitations are there in this information (including gaps about particular
activities, among particular population groups, etc.)?

4) What factors help older people to remain physically active or increase levels of physical

5) What factors prevent older people remaining physically active or increasing levels of physical activity?

6) How well do the quantitatively evaluated interventions map onto the preferences and problems described
by older people themselves in the qualitative literature?

7) What could be done to enhance the ability of all older people to remain, or become more, physically active, including those who are often marginalised?
We will address these questions in two parallel review workstreams that will then be brought together in an overarching synthesis:

• a systematic review of the quantitative evidence about the effectiveness of interventions to maintain and/or improve levels of physical activity in the over 50s (Q1-3). This will include careful cataloguing (mapping) of the type and nature of the interventions and populations studied.

• a systematic review and synthesis of the qualitative research evidence into older people’s (aged 50+) experiences of engaging in physical activity and the factors that hinder or facilitate this. (Q3-5).

• We will then bring together the findings of these two workstreams in an overarching narrative synthesis that aims to illuminate the factors that affect the ability and willingness of older people to be physically active, and which may affect the success of interventions aimed at increasing their activity levels (Q6-7).

Layman's description

Being physically active is beneficial at all ages, contributing to the prevention and management of many physical and mental health conditions. Fewer older people than younger people do enough to meet Department of Health physical activity targets. Much research on this topic has been undertaken but it has not been brought together to provide a comprehensive picture.

We will systematically review the existing research evidence to try and understand what is effective in helping older people (aged 50+) achieve and maintain appropriate levels of physical activity to be healthy. Systematic review is a research technique that uses specific steps to ensure that all the relevant information on a topic is considered fairly and not treated in a biased way. We will “map” the evidence we find to see if there are gaps in, for example, what has been studied, or the groups of people who have been included in such studies. We want to see if there are patterns in the data that explain different results in different studies and to show what works best in different situations. We will also look at what people say about the factors that help them to stay physically active, and what might make this difficult.

We hope to be able to provide information for policy makers and commissioners about what works and what doesn’t work under different circumstances, and which factors that prevent or encourage physical activity they need to think about when planning services. We will also be able to show researchers where there are gaps and uncertainties to target where more research is needed.

Key findings

In progress.
Effective start/end date1/01/1631/08/16


  • National Institute for Health Research