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Predictors of Dropout in Exercise Trials in Older Adults

The Generation 100 Study


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 1 - p 49–55
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001742

Purpose Dropout from exercise programs, both in the real world and in research, is a challenge, and more information on dropout predictors is needed for establishing strategies to increase the likelihood of maintaining participants in a prescribed exercise program. The aim of the present study was to determine the dropout rate and its predictors during a 3-yr exercise program in older adults.

Methods In total, 1514 men and women (mean ± SD age = 72.4 ± 1.9 yr) were included in the present study. Participants were randomized to either a supervised exercise intervention or to follow national guidelines for physical activity (PA). Self-reported demographics (e.g., education), general health, morbidity (e.g., heart disease, memory loss, and psychological distress), smoking, and PA were examined at baseline. Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and grip strength were directly measured at baseline. Dropout rate was evaluated after 1 and 3 yr. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify dropout predictors.

Results The total dropout rate was 11.0% (n = 166) after 1 yr and 14.9% (n = 225) after 3 yr. Significant predictors of dropout after 1 yr were low education, low grip strength, lower cardiorespiratory fitness, low PA level, and randomization to supervised exercise. The same predictors of dropout were significant after 3 yr, with reduced memory status as an additional predictor.

Conclusion This is the largest study to identify dropout predictors in a long-term exercise program in older adults. Our findings provide new and important knowledge about potential risk factors of dropout in long-term exercise programs in older adults.

1Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, K.G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, NORWAY;

2Department of Cardiology, St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim University Hospital, Trondheim, NORWAY;

3College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Institute of Public Health, United Arab Emirates University, Al-Ain, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES;

4Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences, Department of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, NORWAY; and

5School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Queensland, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Hallgeir Viken, Ph.D., Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, PO Box 8905, Trondheim 7491, Norway; E-mail:

Submitted for publication March 2018.

Accepted for publication July 2018.

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© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine