The Active Retired

Physical activity interventions effective for one year among retired adults

(RxWiki News) Retirement marks a number of changes among older adults. Not only is it the end of work life, but time spent doing physical activity may change as well.

A recently published study found that interventions that promote exercise and physical activity in older adults led to long-term improvement in activity at 12 months.

Physical activity improvements are likely to reduce the chance of developing age-related illnesses. The findings of this study can help direct community-based public health interventions around the retirement age, according to researchers.

"Track your steps with a pedometer."

The study evaluated how well different interventions worked to promote physical activity in adults at or near retirement age.

Researchers, led by Nicola Hobbs, PhD, research associate from the Institute of Health & Society, at Newcastle University, looked at 32 studies published between 2000 and 2010 that included adults who averaged 55 to 70 years old.

Included studies focused on the long-term effects of physical activity on behavior as reported by participants or evaluated by a researcher.

Researchers found that the majority of physical activity interventions for older adults had multiple components and provided lifestyle counseling and physical activity.

Interventions that promoted activity equal to walking almost 2,200 steps per day were effective at 12 months. However, equivalent activities were not as effective after two years, researchers found.

"The substantial effect we identified on walking could produce important health benefits for older adults, such as improving weight-related outcomes, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cognitive and psychological well-being," researchers wrote in their report.

"Furthermore, 100 steps per minute has been proposed to represent the floor value of moderate intensity walking," they wrote.

An intervention's effectiveness was not linked to how the intervention was delivered or how many people were involved.

Interventions that worked with individuals on a one-on-one basis may be more effective than group interventions, according to the researchers.

These individualized interventions involved personalized goal setting and provided information about local opportunities to get active in the environment.

Researchers noted that they focused on studies that only included participants from the "most developed countries" within the United Nations index to ensure they focused on interventions that were applicable to similar populations.

In addition, included individuals may be outside the 55- to 70-year-old bracket. The findings may not be generalizable to lower income countries.

The study, which is part of the LiveWell program supported by the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) initiative in the UK, was published online March 19 in the journal BMC Medicine.

The LLHW has a number of funding partners. No conflicts of interest were declared.

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Review Date: 
March 26, 2013