Effectiveness of general practice-based physical activity promotion for older adults: systematic review

Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2014 Apr;15(2):190-201. doi: 10.1017/S1463423613000017. Epub 2013 Mar 18.


Aim: To review the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for adults aged 50 and above, delivered through general practice.

Background: Physical activity has beneficial effects on the common disorders of later life. General practice is a potentially important setting for promotion of physical activity among older adults, but the effectiveness of such interventions is presently unknown.

Methods: Studies published between January 1998 and July 2011 were identified from electronic databases. We searched for studies of tailored physical activity interventions to older adults through general practice. The search and selection process was not restricted to any outcome measures but only included studies comparing two or more groups prospectively. Two reviewers screened the studies and obtained full texts of eligible studies. Included studies were assessed for their methodological quality and public health impact.

Findings: Altogether, 4170 studies met the initial search criteria but only six were included in the review, with a total of 1522 participants. The interventions ranged from six weeks to six months. One study showed a statistically significant increase in physical activity in the intervention compared with the control group (P < or = 0.007). Four studies measured quality of life using the SF-36, of which three reported inconsistent results. This review shows some evidence of the effectiveness of physical activity promotion for older adults through general practice, but not enough to warrant widespread commissioning and implementation. Large-scale developmental projects with long follow-up (beyond two years), objective measures of physical activity and comprehensive documentation of resource use, should now be conducted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • General Practice*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged