The long-term relationship between high-intensity volunteering and physical activity in older African American women

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Mar;64(2):304-11. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbn023. Epub 2009 Jan 29.


Objectives: Experience Corps (EC) places older volunteers in public elementary schools in 20 cities across the country. The EC program in Baltimore is a health promotion intervention designed to improve the academic outcomes of children and increase older adult volunteer physical activity. We sought to determine if there were sustained increases in physical activity with participation in EC.

Methods: Seventy-one African American women volunteers in the Baltimore EC were compared with 150 African American women in the Women's Health and Aging Studies (WHAS) I and II; all were aged 65-86 years with comparable Social Economic Status, frailty, and self-reported health status. Using a regression model, we evaluated physical activity adjusting for a propensity score and time of follow-up over 3 years.

Results: EC volunteers reported a sustained increase in physical activity as compared with the comparison cohort. Baseline physical activity for individuals with a median propensity score was 420 kcal/wk for both groups. At 36 months, EC volunteers reported 670 kcal/week compared with 410 kcal/week in WHAS (p = .04). Discussion These findings suggest that high-intensity senior service programs that are designed as health promotion interventions could lead to sustained improvements in physical activity in high-risk older adults, while simultaneously addressing important community needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Baltimore
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Urban Population*
  • Volunteers / psychology*