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Research and Projects

Physical Activity in Older Adults

Theme: Healthy People, Healthy Environments
Status: Live


Being physically active is beneficial at all ages and can contribute to the prevention and management of many physical and mental health conditions. Compared to younger people, relatively few older people are active enough to meet Department of Health physical activity targets. Much research on this topic has been undertaken but it has not been brought together to provide a comprehensive picture.

Project aims

We will systematically review the existing research evidence to try and understand older people’s (aged 50+) experiences and identify what is known to be effective in helping them participate in appropriate levels of physical activity needed to be healthy. Systematic review is a research technique that uses specific steps to ensure that all the relevant information on a topic is considered fairly and not treated in a biased way.

Project activity

We will look at what people say (qualitative data) about the factors that help them to stay physically active, and what might make this difficult. We will also “map” the evidence from existing systematic reviews to see what is known about which interventions work to support people being physically active and to explore whether there are gaps in, for example, what has been studied, or the groups of people who have been included in such studies. We think it is important to see if the types of activities that have been studied reflect the experiences and preferences of older people themselves and the work of our patient and public involvement group will be part of this.

We will provide information for policy makers and commissioners about which factors, that prevent or encourage physical activity, they need to think about when planning services. We will also be able to show researchers where there are gaps and uncertainties in the existing evidence to target where more research is needed.

This project is being led by Dr Ruth Garside at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH). You can also read about the study on the ECEHH website.

Related publications

Phoenix C & Orr N. Analysing exceptions within qualitative data: promoting analytical diversity to advance knowledge of ageing and physical activity. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health (2017) 

Others Involved

Dr Cassie Phoenix, European Centre for Environment and Human Health