Background: Physical inactivity can have profound effects on physical & mental health. Despite extensive research & policy activity in this area, guidelines for physical activity (PA) levels are poorly met across all age-ranges & this declines with age. Only 6% of people in the UK aged 65+ meet guidelines of 150 mins of moderate PA/week.
Objectives: To understand if highly researched interventions reflect what older people themselves say about what helps or hinders them staying physically active. This presentation will illustrate how we undertook this mixed-methods synthesis, as well as its findings.
Methods: We conducted a qualitative-evidence synthesis (QES) of research about older people & PA. We also conducted a mapping review of existing, relevant quantitative systematic reviews. Using our conceptual framework, we compared whether the expressed views of older people were reflected in high-level research on interventions.
Results: We synthesised findings from 55 qualitative research studies & mapped the results of 18 quantitative systematic reviews (of 518 studies). Walking emerged as important in both reviews. Social aspects of activity were key to many people’s expressed motivations, while intervention studies tend to emphasise individual, behavioural factors. People focused on pleasure & enjoyment, as well as maintaining a sense of belonging & independence. The QES showed activity was multi-purpose; not exclusively driven by fitness & health, but by the ways in which this enabled a sense of connection to local communities and peer groups. Neither review identified information about upstream influences such as policy or environmental factors that can encourage PA.
Conclusions: The motivations & pleasures of older people in relation to PA are not well reflected in interventions that are included in reviews & likely to be promoted through evidence-based public health. This reflects a recent assessment of public health studies which shows a predominance of individual-level interventions. More attention to enjoyment, sociability & practical concerns of being physically active might be more appropriate. More research on upstream factors is also needed.