Objective: To determine whether provision of individualised physical activity advice by an exercise specialist in general practice is effective in modifying physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors in older adults.
Design: Randomised controlled trial of individualised physical activity advice, reinforced at three and six months (intervention) versus no advice (control).
Setting: Two general practices in Adelaide, South Australia, 1996.
Participants: 299 adults aged 60 years or more who were healthy, sedentary and living in the community.
Main outcome measures: Changes to physical activity (frequency and duration of walking and vigorous exercise), selected cardiovascular risk factors (blood pressure, body weight, serum lipid levels) and quality of life over 12 months.
Results: Self-reported physical activity increased over the 12 months in both groups (P < 0.001). The increase was greater for the intervention than the control group for all measures except time spent walking (P < 0.05). More intervention than control participants increased their intention to exercise (P < 0.001). Serum levels of total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides fell significantly over the 12 months to a similar extent in the two groups. No other significant changes in cardiovascular risk factors were seen. Quality-of-life scores decreased over the 12 months. The decrease was significantly greater among intervention than control women, but not men, for emotional well-being (P = 0.02), physical well-being (P = 0.04) and social functioning (P = 0.04).
Discussion: Provision of general practice-based physical activity advice reinforced three-monthly produced a sustained increase in self-reported physical activity. However, there were no associated changes in clinical measures of cardiovascular risk factors and minimal changes in quality-of-life measures.