Group-based physical activity for older adults (GOAL) randomized controlled trial: Exercise adherence outcomes

Health Psychol. 2018 May;37(5):451-461. doi: 10.1037/hea0000615.


Background: Despite the health benefits of regular physical activity, across the globe older adults represent the least active section of society.

Purpose: The GrOup-based physical Activity for oLder adults (GOAL) trial was a three-arm parallel randomized controlled trial (RCT) that was designed to test the efficacy of two group-based exercise programs for older adults, informed by self-categorization theory (SCT), in comparison to a standard group-based exercise program.

Methods: RCT conducted in Greater Vancouver, Canada, enrolled 627 older adults (Mage = 71.57 years, SD = 5.41; 71.0% female). Participants were randomized to similar age same gender (SASG), similar age mixed gender (SAMG), or 'standard' mixed age mixed gender (MAMG) exercise group conditions. In addition to group composition, the intervention programs operationalized principles from SCT designed to foster a sense of social connectedness among participants. The primary outcome of the trial was exercise adherence behavior over 12 and 24 weeks.

Results: Analyses of variance revealed that older adults randomized to the SAMG (12-weeks d = .51, p < .001; 24-weeks d = .47, p < .001) and SASG (12-weeks d = .28, p = .012; 24-weeks d = .29, p = .016) conditions adhered to a greater extent than those in the MAMG comparison condition. There were no significant differences between the SAMG and SASG conditions.

Conclusions: The results provide support for the efficacy of group-based physical activity programs informed by SCT. Furthermore, the results suggest that community group-based exercise programs should attempt to engage in age-targeting but not necessarily gender-targeting among older adults. (PsycINFO Database Record

Trial registration: NCT02023632.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Research Design

Associated data