Effect of Community Volunteering on Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Am J Prev Med. 2016 Jan;50(1):106-110. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.06.015. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Introduction: Older adults with a high number of chronic conditions and who live in environments that do not promote physical activity have great difficulty initiating and adhering to exercise programs. Novel lifestyle activity interventions that can effectively increase physical activity may address disparities in health in these populations. This study evaluates the effects of the Baltimore Experience Corps program, a community-based volunteer program, on walking activity in older adults.

Methods: The Baltimore Experience Corps Trial is a sex-stratified RCT that recruited participants from 2006 to 2009. Older adult participants aged ≥60 years (n=123) were from a nested objective physical activity trial within the larger Baltimore Experience Corps Trial. Participants randomized to the intervention group were placed as volunteers within the Baltimore public school system for 2 years. The primary study outcome was objectively measured total amount of walking activity measured in steps/day. Differences between intervention and control groups were measured at 12 and 24 months using linear mixed effects models. Data were analyzed in 2014.

Results: At 24 months, women, but not men, in the intervention group showed an increased amount of walking activity, averaging 1,500.3 (95% CI=77.6, 2,922.9) greater steps/day compared with the control group. Women in the control group showed a decline of 1,191.6 (95% CI=-2243.7, -139.5) steps/day at 24 months compared to baseline.

Conclusions: A community-based volunteer intervention increased walking activity among older women, who were at elevated risk for both inactivity and adverse health outcomes.

Trial registration: This study is registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT00380562.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / methods
  • Aged
  • Baltimore
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Volunteers*
  • Walking

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00380562