Promoting Physical Activity in Independent Living Communities


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2006 - Volume 38 - Issue 1 - pp 112-115
Symposium: Functional Health: Innovations in Research on Physical Activity in Older Adults

Purpose: Recent studies evaluating physical activity programming in independent living facilities reveal that oftentimes programs have poor attendance rates, with difficulty in motivating older residents identified as a primary barrier. To better understand how to promote physical activity in the independent living setting, a brief cognitive-behavioral feedback intervention was evaluated as a means to mobilize older adults to attend introductory activity programs.

Methods: Residents in three independent living communities (N = 79; mean age = 81.6 (SD = 6.1) yr) were randomly assigned to either a brief tailored feedback session, based on social cognitive theory and recent research on risk perception, or to a standard information-only condition. All participants were provided information advertising an introductory physical activity session.

Results: Of the 38 participants randomized to the cognitive-behavioral intervention, 20 attended the physical activity session, as compared to five of the 41 participants in the information-only condition. The difference between groups for attendance at the session was significant (χ2 (1, N = 79) = 24.31, P < 0.001).

Conclusion: The findings support the efficacy of a brief intervention to generate interest in physical activity. Effective and feasible interventions intended to make environments more engaging are warranted and should include individualized feedback that emphasizes the role played by physical activity in independent living.

Department of Health and Exercise Science, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Address for correspondence: Shannon L. Mihalko, Ph.D. Department of Health and Exercise Science, PO Box 7868, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27109; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2004.

Accepted for publication July 2005.

©2006The American College of Sports Medicine