Physical activity in older adults – a systematic review

This project will help us to understand the factors that affect older people’s participation in exercise and physical activity.

Focusing on adults over the age of 50, it will systematically review the existing research evidence to develop an understanding of people’s experiences, and identify effective ways of helping older adults participate in the levels of physical activity needed to be healthy.

Being physically active is beneficial at all ages and can contribute to the prevention and management of many physical and mental health conditions. Yet, compared to younger people, relatively few older people are active enough to meet Department of Health physical activity targets.

Whilst a lot of research has been undertaken on this topic, it hasn’t been brought together to provide a comprehensive picture.

This study will use qualitative data to assess the factors that help people to stay physically active, and what might make this difficult. It will ‘map’ the evidence from existing systematic reviews to see what is known about interventions which work to support people being physically active.

It will also explore whether there are gaps in what has been studied, or the groups of people who have been included in such studies.

The inclusion of 5 public members on the project’s expert advisory group will be pivotal to the success of this research, ensuring that the types of activities that have been studied reflect the experiences and preferences of older people themselves.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with PenCLAHRC.

Findings will highlight to policy makers and commissioners the factors that prevent or encourage physical activity, and how they should be considered when planning services. They will also show researchers where there are gaps and uncertainties in the existing evidence, so future research can be effectively targeted.

Systematic reviews provide a research technique that use specific steps to ensure all relevant information on a topic is considered fairly, and not treated in a biased way. This project will involve an evidence synthesis of qualitative research and the mapping of quantitative reviews.