Active for Life: Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Adults Age 50 and Older

An RWJF National Program

Field of Work: physical activity for older adults

Problem Synopsis: Physical inactivity is an important modifiable threat to health and functional independence in later life. Despite mounting evidence that physical activity slows premature aging and chronic disease, many older Americans live unnecessarily sedentary lives.

Synopsis of the Work: Active for Life®: Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Adults Age 50 and Older studied how to deliver and sustain research-based physical activity programs in real-world settings so that large numbers of older Americans could benefit from them. It featured nine community-based projects in which a variety of community organizations implemented one of two behavior change programs that research had demonstrated to be effective in helping mature adults become more active.

Key Findings/Results

  • Researchers from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health evaluated Active for Life, to determine whether the community organizations were able to adapt—or "translate"—the models and whether the adapted programs achieved outcomes comparable to the original models. The evaluation did not report on the sites' results individually.

    The evaluators found that participants in the community-based program significantly increased their level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The participants reported increases in satisfaction with body appearance and function, and decreases in weight (as measured by body mass index or BMI).

    Participants were more ethnically and economically diverse, and in poorer health than the older adults in the original research-based studies of the two programs. Nonetheless, the levels of improvement in Active for Life participants were comparable to those seen in the original studies. They generally sustained their gains six months after completing the program.