Best practices for physical activity programs and behavior counseling in older adult populations

J Aging Phys Act. 2005 Jan;13(1):61-74. doi: 10.1123/japa.13.1.61.


Physical activity offers one of the greatest opportunities for people to extend years of active independent life and reduce functional limitations. The article identifies key practices for promoting physical activity in older adults, with a focus on those with chronic disease or low fitness and those with low levels of physical activity. Key practices identified: (a) A multidimensional activity program that includes endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility training is optimal for health and functional benefits; (b) principles of behavior change including social support, self-efficacy, active choices, health contracts, assurances of safety, and positive reinforcement enhance adherence; (c) manage risk by beginning at low intensity but gradually increasing to moderate physical activity, which has a better risk:benefit ratio and should be the goal for older adults; (d) an emergency procedure plan is prudent for community-based programs; and (e) monitoring aerobic intensity is important for progression and motivation. Selected content review of physical activity programming from major organizations and institutions is provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Directive Counseling*
  • Exercise*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion / standards*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Management
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control