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Physical activity interventions are effective in adults of retirement age at 12 months, but effects are not maintained at 24 months.

Hobbs N, Godfrey A, Lara J, et al.  Are behavioral interventions effective in increasing physical activity at 12 to 36 months in adults aged 55 to 70 years? A systematic review and meta-analysis  BMC Medicine. 2013; 11:75

Review question

Are physical activity interventions effective at promoting long-term changes in levels of activity in older adults of retirement age?


Major life transitions such as retirement may lead to changes in physical activity levels. Remaining physically active after retirement can help promote physical health and wellness and help prevent chronic disease.

How the review was done

This review included 21 randomized controlled trials with 10, 519 participants aged 55-70 years, and 15 of the trials were combined statistically. Interventions involved group education and a standard goal of 150 min of physical activity per week, with some interventions being tailored to the participants. Physical activity was measured either by self-report or devices such as pedometers. Those exposed to physical activity interventions were compared to those who received either no intervention or minimal intervention, and activity levels were measured from 12 months to up to 24 months after the intervention.

What the researchers found

When measured using a pedometer, step counts were significantly higher at 12 months, among those who received the intervention compared to those not exposed. When measured by self-report, physical activity levels were significantly higher at 12 months among those who received the intervention compared to those not exposed. In the longer term however (18-24 months) these positive effects were not maintained. The optimal number of intervention sessions appeared to be 11.


In adults of retirement age, physical activity interventions are effective at increasing step count and physical activity levels at 12 months but not 24 months after the intervention. The number of contacts beyond 11 does not result in ongoing increases in physical activity levels.


Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.

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