Background: Physical activity is beneficial for health, yet, there is limited research on the benefits of physical activity on the health of older women.
Objectives: This review was undertaken to assess the effectiveness of physical activity interventions on the physical health outcomes of healthy older women living independently in the community: to systematically review randomised-controlled studies of physical activity interventions designed to improve the physical health of healthy older women living independently in the community; to consider the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for older women on their physical health outcomes, including physical fitness; and, to identify implications for policy and practice to promote physical activity in older women.
Methods: Five major databases were searched for English studies published between 2000-2016, as well as six additional portals for unpublished studies. Studies included women age 50 years or older living independently in the community. Excluded were studies targeting women with specific conditions such as arthritis and heart disease. Standardised tools and processes developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute guided the review. Initially we reviewed 563 articles of which 9 remained for the final review and synthesis.
Results:All included studies used a randomised-controlled trial methodology that tested a physical activity intervention. Various positive health outcomes were reported that could be attributed to the interventions including improved strength, enhanced balance and self-confidence, fewer reported falls, improved bone density and reduced risk of fractures, increased speed of activities, and favourable physiological parameters. There was lack of consistency across types of interventions, settings, and outcome measures thus a narrative review was conducted.
Conclusions: A range of physical activity interventions benefit older women’s health. Future research should be designed to attend to focus the number and types of variables studied.