What Works in Physical Activity Programs for Sedentary Older Adults? Best Practices Identifed and Put in a Web-Based Directory

Little is known about the effectiveness of community-based physical activity programs that serve older adults or the extent to which these programs use best practices. In this project, investigators at the National Council on Aging, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Washington at Seattle, sought to identify and disseminate best-practice physical activity programs, study their impact on older adults and provide a directory of such programs.

Key Results

The investigators:

  • Identified 10 physical activity programs employing evidence-based best practices.
  • Disseminated best-practice components and principles via a series of seven issue briefs.
  • Conducted a randomized control study of the impact on people age 50 and older of three of the physical activity programs employing best practices.
  • Created Active Options, a Web-based directory of resources and information regarding agencies that provide physical activity programs for older adults in 14 states.

Key Findings

  • Upper- and lower-body strength: At five and 10 months after baseline, adults participating in best-practice physical activity programs scored significantly better than control group members on tests measuring upper- and lower-body strength.
  • Level of physical activity: At five and 10 months after baseline, treatment group participants increased their frequency of physical activity by an average of 26 percent, compared with a 9 percent increase among control group participants.